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Title: Chap-Book Stories - Being a Miscellany of Curious and Interesting Tales; - Histories, Newly composed by Many Celebrated Writers and - very Delightful to Read.
Author: Various
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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CHAP-BOOK STORIES

By Various Authors

Being a Miscellany of Curious and Interesting Tales; Histories, Newly
composed by Many Celebrated Writers and very delightful to read.

1896, By Herbert S. Stone & Co

Chicago



CONTENTS

BATES, KATHARINE

Whither Thou Goest

An Impassable Gulf

BOYCE, NEITH

In a Garden

CHANNING, GRACE ELLERY

Oreste’s Patron

CUMMINGS, EDWARD

The Appeal to Anne

DORSEY, ANNA VERNON

The Dead Oak

HOLLOWAY, Jr., WILLIAM

The Making of Monsieur Lescarbot’s Ballad

LEFEVRE, EDWIN

On the Brink

LELAND, ANTHONY

A Woman’s Life

“When the King Comes In”

POOL, MARIA LOUISE

Mandany’s Fool

ROSS, CLINTON

The Way to Constantinople

THANET, OCTAVE

The Old Partisan



WHITHER THOU GOEST

By Katharine Bates

THE wind stirred the tops of the maple trees in the Quinsby front yard,
and the old man who stood on the steps, watching the shadows and the
moonlight, sighed as he heard the soft rustling sound. He glanced back
into the house, through the hall, into the bedroom, where his wife was
lighting a candle preparatory to turning down the bed.

“I reckon I’ll jest step down there a minit,” he whispered to himself,
and hurriedly but softly went down the steps. Far down in a corner of
the yard, near the front fence, a hammock hung between two small pin
oaks, and it was here the old man went, looking back uneasily now and
then, as if he expected a call from his wife. The hammock was an old
one, and had evidently hung there all summer, for the meshes were torn
and all the gay colors had faded to a dingy gray. It tossed lightly in
the breeze as the wind grew stronger, and the old man’s hand trembled as
he caught at its swaying folds.

“Girls,” he whispered softly, “are you both here? Are you pushing the
swing, Winnie?”

A sudden flutter went over the leaves of a lilac bush near, and he
turned quickly to it. “That’s Nan’s laugh-gigglin’ at yore old pa jest
as usual, Nanny girl?”

“Father,” his wife called from the porch, “you better come in.”

He turned and hurried back to her. She stood on the steps with the
candle still in her hand, its tiny flame looking almost blue in the
moonlight.

“Mebbe a storm is cornin’ up and you’ll ketch cold,” she said when he
reached her. Her voice was stern, but the look in her gray eyes was as
sad as the trembling of his lips when he said to her, “Ain’t it jest the
sorter night the girls use’ to beg to stay out, and not have to go to
bed yet a while?”

“It’s a mighty pretty night,” she answered. She followed him into their
room, closing the hall door after her.

“Oh, don’t shet it, Mira, don’t! It seems as if you was shettin’ the
children out.”

Mrs. Quinsby turned to him. “Hiram, I must speak out to you,” she said.
“I don’t see any more’n you why the Lord thought best to take our girls,
our two good, pretty girls, but He has done it, and it ain’t right for
you to be lettin’ yoreself fancy you hear ‘em ‘round on nights like this.
I’ve faith to believe if we can keep ourselves outer sin for the rest of
our days we shall see the children again--but not here, Hiram, not here
in the old place.”

“I know it ain’t Nan and Winnie sure ‘nough,” Hiram answered
apologetically, “but these nights make me think of ‘em a terrible
lot--and the leaves goin’ so and so in the wind does sound real like
Nan’s laugh. Mira, I was out in the garden while you was puttin’ the
dishes away and strainin’ the milk, and jest as the moon came out and
the wind started up I heard a laugh like Nan’s, and then something
danced by me that must have been Winnie. I hurried down the path
after it, and there by the poppy bed were the girls, rompin’ jest like
children again, ‘most grown girls that they are. As the wind came up
more they laughed again, not so soft as they had been doin’, but a real
burst of gay laughin’ like they use’ to work themselves up to, and then
they ran towards the arbor and peeped out from the honeysuckle, and Nan
called, ‘Here, Pa,’ and Winnie sorter sang out, ‘Father, Father,’ in her
soft way.” Mrs. Quinsby put her hands on his shoulders and gave him a
little shake. Her eyes were frightened, and her voice came quick and
stern.

“Hush, Father,” she said. “You are doin’ yoreself an injury. The girls
are in heaven, not here, and don’t you let go yore grip on yore mind.
Think of me, Hiram--you’ve got me left, and I can’t stand the thought of
the lonesomeness if you let your senses go. You and me have been married
so many years, Hiram, we could n’t get on without each other. Why, it
seems to me the good Lord would surely let me get foolish too--mebbe it
ain’t fittin’ for one of my years to say it, but I’d ruther, yes, I’d
_ruther_ if it comes down to choosin’ between my senses and you, Hiram!”

The far-away look disappeared from Hiram’s eyes. “I was jest thinkin’,
Mira,” he said reassuringly. “It was only that the night was so powerful
pretty. But now we won’t talk of the children any more.”

Mrs. Quinsby drew him back to the porch again.

“Don’t think me hard, Father,” she said entreatingly, “but I want you to
be sure. Look over there towards the church; you can see the dark heap
of trees against the sky in the churchyard, can’t you? There’s where the
girls are--there’s where they are.”

“Why, of course, Mira. Though how the Lord could take those pretty young
things, and our only two, that had come to us when we was long past
hopin’, is more’n I can see.”

They went to bed, but later in the night Mrs. Quinsby waked suddenly.
Her first thought was that the storm was really coming and she had left
the pantry windows open. She slipped out of bed, but as she realized
that her movement did not disturb her husband, a blind terror came over
her; she struck match after match before she could make herself believe
he was not there. Then she picked up a shawl and flung it over her
nightgown, and, regardless of her bare feet, rushed out to the garden.
The wind was blowing hard and the moon was half hidden by the lightly
scudding clouds, but Hiram’s laugh--the pleased, indulgent laugh that
his girls’ nonsense had so often produced--guided her to him.

“That you, Mother?” he called as she ran down the path. “What a couple
of colts you’ve brought up, Mira. Reckon you could find their beat
anywheres in Mizzourer for friskiness? Just see those girls racin’
round--a storm comin’ up always did go to their heads. Hear Nan laugh!
Ain’t she the greatest girl for foolin’ you ever saw?”

He pointed to some tall hollyhocks that she could see were bending low
with the wind, and added, “Watch her bow; Nan was always as easy movin’
in her body as a saplin’ or a tall flower.”

Mrs. Quinsby put her arm around his shoulder. “Oh, he’s let go--you’ve
let go, Father, and I’m left! I can’t stand the lonesomeness, I can’t, I
can’t!”

They moved toward the arbor. As they passed under the drooping
honeysuckle, Hiram laughed aloud.

“They are putting their hands over our eyes to make us guess which is
which--the little geese!” Mrs. Quinsby put her hand to her forehead and
pressed the cool honeysuckle leaves against her eyes.

She laughed too. “I knew it,” she whispered, “I knew the Almighty would
let me go with him. He knew how it was with Hiram and me.” Aloud she
said, “I guess Winnie. Yore hands ain’t as soft as Winnie’s, Nan.”



AN IMPASSABLE GULF

By Katharine Bates

PETER ELSTON’S two nieces, Nancy Rollins and Hester Elston, stood on
opposite sides of the frame, working together silently. Suddenly Hester
dropped her needle, straightened her lithe young figure, and throwing
back her pretty head, said hurriedly:

“I don’t see how you can feel so, Nan! You must see how good he is, as
well as bein’ different from any boy we’ve ever known round here on the
Prairie. Ain’t he always thoughtful ‘bout pleasin’ Uncle Peter? And he’s
gone to church reg’lar with us every Sunday he’s been here, ain’t he?”

She pauses, catching her breath after her eager speech, and looking
yearningly at Nancy. The older girl’s pale face hardened as she caught
the imploring glance.

“He seems to me to be very worldly,” she said coldly.

The color rushed to Hester’s cheeks, and she bent quickly over the
frame; for a few moments she sewed vigorously, saying to herself with
fierce indignation, as she worked:

“I declare if I think Nancy is so spiritual, after all--a judgin’ Fred
like that, and all because he told her he liked to go now and then to
the the-_a_-tre!”

Resentment, however, never lingered long in Hester’s heart, and at last
she raised her head again.

“I wish you did feel different, Nan,” she said gently. “I can’t bear to
think of you not takin’ to the man I’m goin’ to marry. You and me have
always seemed jest like sisters ever since Uncle Pete took us to raise.”

Nancy’s blue eyes met the pleading brown ones more gently this time.

“Yes,” she said slowly, “you _have_ been jest like a sister to me,
Hetty.”

Hester ran around the frame and threw her arms around her cousin with
the eager expression of affection which always embarrassed Nancy.

“Nan,” she cried, “I jest do wish you could see it the way I do. Fred is
so good, and it’s only because he lives in town that he has gotten to
like such things as the-_a_-tres. You do take to him sure ‘nough, don’t
you?”

Nancy’s voice quivered as she answered the passionate appeal.

“I know he’s got pleasant ways, and he’s right principled about a lot of
things, but, Hetty, there’s no denyin’ he puts pleasure before servin’
the Lord, and we are told mighty plain in the Bible not to make friends
with the Mammon of unrighteousness.”

Hester bit her lip.

“There’s some folks, and real good ones, too, who think havin’ some
pleasures like Fred cares for and bein’ real down good Christians, too,
ain’t incompatible,” she said, struggling to speak calmly.

“There’s a gulf,” Nancy said firmly, “between me and the-_a_-tre goers,
and I’m mighty sorry for you, Hester.”

“You needn’t be,” cried Hester, impatiently. “I’m happy and satisfied
about marryin’ Fred!”

“What’s all this talk about marryin’?” Uncle Peter called in at the
doorway, as he paused to wave his bundle of birds and squirrels at his
nieces. “Jest leave a couple of girls alone, and their tongues are sure
to get to waggin’ ‘bout marryin’! Come along, Hetty, and help me pick and
clean this lot. It’s been a fine huntin’ day, if ‘tis a trifle coldish
for an old man like me.”

“You old!” laughed Hester, as they settled themselves by the kitchen
fire.

“Yes, I am gettin’ on,” cried Uncle Peter, seriously, “and I don’t see
how I am goin’ to do without you, Hester. You are sure you want to marry
Fred?”

“Yes, sure,” said Hester, quickly. “Uncle Pete, wasn’t it jest
marvellous for him to fall in love with me, when he’s a town man and
knows such a lot of girls with better manners and all that?” Uncle Peter
looked meditatively at the delicate rose complexion, the large brown
eyes, and the soft, waving hair.

“I don’t see as it was so dreadful queer,” he said. “You’d pass in a
crowd, Het.”

There was silence for a little while, Hester dreaming happy dreams of
her future, and Uncle Peter groaning inwardly at the prospect of being
left to live alone with the more spiritual of his nieces. Suddenly a
gleam of hope came to him, and he said:

“Mebbe you can’t marry him after all--town folks have a great way of not
makin’ a livin’, Hetty.”

“I know it,” admitted Hester, almost despondently, but her face
brightened as she added; “but it is such a great big store Fred is
clerkin’ in that I’m jest sure we won’t have to wait long, Uncle Pete.”

The waiting time proved to be as short as Hester and Fred had hoped, for
in spite of his “worldliness” Fred was a faithful young fellow, and the
promotion which made possible a tiny flat, and housekeeping on a limited
scale, came even before he had expected it. Uncle Peter did his best
to be cheery at the simple little wedding, and Nancy had baked as many
cakes for them as if the young couple were not starting out on a sinful
career. Hester prized keenly the expressions of affection which had
been rare up to the time when her uncle and cousin had realized what a
difference her going would make in their lives, and her grief at leaving
her home amazed and almost annoyed Fred, who had grown to look upon
himself as her deliverer from a life which seemed very cramped and hard
to him.

“I wish there was somethin’ I could do for you, Hetty,” Uncle Peter
said, when the last of the wedding guests had departed, and he and Nancy
were hurrying Fred and Hester away to the train, for they were going at
once to their new home. He took her carpet-bag from her, and awkwardly
helped her to button the linen duster, which Nancy had insisted should
be worn to the station to protect the new travelling dress from the mud.

“There is,” said Hester, tremulously. “Uncle Pete, if you could jest
make Nancy see that goin’ to the the-_a_-tre ain’t incompatible with
goin’ to Heaven some day, I ‘d be greatly obliged to you.”

Uncle Peter drew a long breath.

“You’ve done a sight of work here, Hetty,” he said tenderly, “and I’ve
been dreadful fond of you, too, but I’ll be damned if I will try to get
a new notion into Nancy’s head, even for you!” Hester sighed. “I s’pose
it would be askin’ a good deal of you,” she said simply “but, Uncle
Pete, you will remind her anyway that Fred and I won’t be able to afford
goin’ more’n once in a long, long time, won’t you? Now good-bye, Uncle.”

He helped her into the wagon, and while Fred and Nancy were crossing the
yard, he stood looking at her with his lips twitching nervously.

“Good-bye, Hester,” Nancy said, climbing up on the step of the wagon.
The two kissed each other, and Hester clung for a second to her cousin’s
neck.

“Oh, Nan,” she whispered, “we have always played together and done our
work together--_don’t_ feel hard to me.”

Nancy looked down at her sadly.

“I ain’t a mite hard,” she said gently. “I ain’t judgin’, Hetty, only
there’s a gulf. Goodbye.”

She turned to Fred and held out her hand. “I wish you well,” she said,
in her clear, calm tones, and then she opened the yard gate and stood
inside, leaving Uncle Peter a chance for his farewell.

He wrung Fred’s hand, but no words came from his trembling lips.

“I’ll be very good to her,” Fred said hurriedly. “Good-bye, sir. I hope
you won’t mind if I say I consider it an honor to be your nephew.”

At the time Uncle Peter grasped only the first words. “Yes,” he said,
“be good to her, Fred--she’s a good girl, a good girl.”

He stepped on the hub of the wheel, and Hester threw her arms around
him, kissing vehemently his gray head and wrinkled cheeks.

“Don’t forget me,” she sobbed. “Oh, how can I leave you and Nan and the
old place? Goodbye, and I love you, I do so love you, Uncle Pete!”

At a sign from Nancy the hired man whipped up the horses. As they drove
away Hester looked back at the clump of oak-trees around the house, and
then at the two figures at the yard gate.

“I wish I’d done more for’em all these years they’ve been so good to
me,” she said, the tears streaming down her cheeks. Fred held her hand
close between both of his, but he made no answer, for her grief dazed
him. He knew that many elements in her life had been distasteful to
her; and why should a woman who was marrying the man she loved, and was
moreover going to town to live, grieve in this way? The hired man turned
in his seat and gave the needed word of comfort.

“You’ve done a sight for’em,” he said warmly, “and you ain’t no cause to
fret, Miss Hetty. We’ll all miss you terrible.”

Uncle Peter wandered restlessly around the farm until dinner-time. An
aching heart was a new experience to him, and one that he did not know
how to meet. He went into the orchard and picked up apple after apple,
and after a mere taste flung each of them away; as he left the orchard
he stopped to look back at the mass of Spanish needle and goldenrod,
through which he had just made his way.

“How she did like all that yeller stuff,” he said aloud. “What a sight
of interest she took in everything about the place. She was a good
girl, and I wish I’d a quit swearin’--‘twould have tickled her mightily.
Hanged if I don’t quit it now!”

Nancy had an unusually good dinner ready for him. Preparing it had
helped her to pass the morning, for Uncle Peter’s was not the only
aching heart. She helped him lavishly to half a dozen vegetables, but
for the first time within her memory of him, he had no appetite. He
pushed back his chair before she brought his pie, and as he did so a
sudden wave of antagonism to her came over him; he had never spoken to
her of her stern words to Hester, but now involuntarily his criticism of
her slipped from him.

“Blessed if I can see how you could have been so hard on Fred, and let
pore Hetty go away feelin’ so broke up,” he said impetuously.

Nancy pressed her lips together firmly.

“I never judged Fred himself,” she said. “I always separated the sin
from the sinner, and we are bidden to be unceasing in denouncing sin.”

Uncle Peter said no more; he rose from the table and went out to the
porch, and as he sat there Fred’s words recurred to him, and roused a
glow of affectionate feeling.

“Proud to be my nephew,” he repeated. “He’s a fine feller, he is, and
Hetty’s done well for herself, if it is pretty hard on us to be left.”
 He went back to the dining-room, where Nancy was clearing the dishes
away, and opening the door he called in vehemently:

“Blamed if I care if he takes her to the the-_a_-tre every night in the
week!”

Nancy turned a startled face to him, forgetful of the fact that tears
were rolling down her cheeks.

The unexpected sight of her grief touched her uncle keenly; he had never
before seen her cry, and going over to her and laying his hand on her
shoulder, he said affectionately, “I’m a reg’lar old brute, Nan. You
must excuse me, and remember it’s losin’ Hetty that’s sorter upset me. I
orter be better ‘n usual to you, instead of meaner, for I can see you are
grievin’ too.”

“I have more cause to be grievin’ even than you, Uncle Peter,” Nancy
said sadly, “for there’s an impassable gulf between Hetty and me now.”
 Uncle Peter’s hand slipped from her shoulder.

“Gulfs be damned,” he said impatiently.



IN A GARDEN

By Neith Boyce

OVER the wall of the Mission, against the glowing west, the tops of
the trees flickered in the wind from the sea, shot through with level
glancing arrows of clear light. The sky was all astir with little soft,
gold-tipped clouds. To the languid hush of the hot day had succeeded a
subtle animation like the smile on the lips of a sleeping woman.

On this awakening air the last organ-notes of the vesper service
died away, and were echoed by the slow, rhythmic swing of the tall
eucalyptus-trees. The rustle of the leaves imitated the sound of the
devout dispersing from the chapel; and a magnolia shook out from its
great white chalices an incense more penetrating than any wafted before
the altar. Suddenly all this gentle derision seemed to voice itself in
a burst of mocking laughter, faint and far away, like the airy merriment
of elves. The sound approached and grew louder, running through the
notes of a treble scale. And the trees in the monks’ garden seemed to
bend and listen and to beckon while they shook all over with malicious
glee.

Scurrying over the ground beyond, with bare, dusty feet, appeared
a group of creatures pulling each other by extended arms, or brown
garments which seemed a part of the earth, or by their braids of strong,
black hair. Writhing in this rough play they flung themselves against
the wall. A palefaced girl in a scarlet blouse, like a cactus-flower
bursting from its dull sheath, threw up her arms into the dense, dark
foliage of an overhanging fig-tree and dragged down the bough.

“They are ripe!--what did I tell you?” she cried, as at a touch a
purple, bloomy fig fell into her hand. She tore it open and fastened her
teeth, sharp and white as those of a squirrel, in the pink flesh.

Her companions hung back, looking at her.

“If we are caught--”

“What do we care? Cowards! There--now you can put all the blame on me.
Eat, then, little pigs that you are!”

Her heavy-lidded eyes were cold and contemptuously smiling. Hanging to
the bough with both hands, she shook it roughly, and the ripe figs fell
in a shower, some flattening to pulp on the ground. The girls flung
themselves down, and, chattering, gathered the unspoiled fruit into the
skirts of their gowns.

“It is true; they are better than ours,” cried one.

“Trust the holy fathers to have the best,” added another, lowering her
voice.

“They taste better,” said Fiora, the tall girl in the scarlet blouse,
“because we are stealing them.” And she licked her red lips with
satisfaction.

“There must be better ones higher up,” said a fourth, greedily, standing
with her hands on her broad hips and her head thrown back.

“Let us see,” responded Fiora.

Again she caught hold of the drooping branch, drew herself up, and in
an instant the thick foliage hid her from sight. Her companions,
half-smothered with laughter, besought her to return.

“Oh, if you are seen!”

“Catch!” cried Fiora.

A rain of soft bodies fell, thumping them about the shoulders. Through
the parted leaves an impudent face looked down, framed like a young
faun’s in living green.

“I am going higher--I am going to look into the garden!”

“Oh! Oh!” in frightened and delighted chorus. “You dare not!”

“Listen, my children,” said Fiora, condescendingly. “They say no woman
has ever seen this garden. Well, I have a great mind to be the first!”

Lying along the thick branch, she listened smilingly.

“It is forbidden!”

“You will be punished!”

“The holy fathers--”

“What have they in their garden,” she cried at last, “that is so sacred
that we may not see it? Would our feet soil the grass or the paths?”

The girls looked at one another slyly and hid their faces; and their
malicious laughter, stifled with difficulty and uncontrollable, mingled
again with the eager murmurs of the trees.

Fiora, herself laughing, she scarcely knew why, disappeared, the leaves
closing behind her like a green sea. She crept along the great branch
until her feet found something firm--the top of the wall. Clinging
to the trunk of the tree which leaned against this wall, she tried to
pierce the thick layers of foliage below her, but in vain; nothing was
to be seen in the garden. She swore softly. Then, in trying to extend
herself upon a branch which projected into the garden, she slipped,
catching vainly at the nearest twigs, and with a thrill of alarm came
to her feet upon the forbidden soil. She clenched her hands, full of
bruised leaves, against her breast, as she crouched in the shelter of
the drooping boughs. Startled by the noise of her fall, her
companions took flight like a covey of birds, with a rustle, a faint
murmur--silence.

Fiora sank to her knees and remained for some moments motionless, gazing
out into the garden. In the dusk, deepened by the shadow of encircling
trees, nothing was visible save narrow paths strewn with opal-colored
sea-shells glimmering amid fresh turf, and roses blooming in masses
along these walks and hiding the wall under their heavy leaves, thick
with flowers like pale flames. Silence--except for the applauding
whisper of the trees and the plash of water. There was no one in the
garden.

Taking courage, the intruder pushed her way out from under the boughs of
the fig-tree. The freshly sprinkled grass caressed her feet. The perfume
of the roses and the magnolia blossoms, becoming more intense as the dew
began to gather, surrounded her like an invisible presence, seeming
to draw her on. She stole softly forward, her eyes alert for the least
warning and alive with curiosity. The path led her through an arbor
drifted deep with the perfumed snow of wistaria, and between banks
of golden pansies set in mosaic borders. At the intersection of this
gleaming streak with another a fountain played in a white basin, tossing
high in the air a crystal ball. The crest of the plume of water caught
a gleam of golden light, and the transparent ball glittered as it rose
every instant from shadow. Fiora paused to watch it and to follow
the arrowy glidings of the gold-fish in the basin. The short southern
twilight was already ended. It was now dark--the hour at which the
fathers took their evening meal. Yielding, therefore, to her fancy, she
followed the windings of the paths, stopping recklessly to pluck now
a scarlet pomegranate, which she ate with puckered lips; now a rose,
crimson or yellow, or a long spray of white roses with pink hearts, set
close together on the stem. Huge cacti, their gray, distorted bodies
spotted with blood-colored blossoms, stood here and there in clumps.
Banana trees waved softly their long, graceful fronds. The wind stirred
with a dry rustle among palms with broad trunks and large fans, and
others, slender and lofty, with crests like stacked swords, and among
masses of pampas-grass tufted with great white plumes. Along the wall,
to which now and then Fiora’s wanderings in the confined space brought
her, grew apricot and peach trees heavy with ripe fruit. These perfect
sweets also she tasted capriciously and threw away half-eaten. The place
exerted a strange influence over her. The hour, the delicious thrill of
danger, the heavy perfumes, intoxicated her. It seemed that the trees
bent toward her to murmur something, that the pale faces of the flowers
held some mysterious message. They looked friendly; they appeared to
smile knowingly at her, to encourage her, to urge her on. Vaguely she
felt all this breathing, eager life a part of her, belonging to her.
She threw back her head, turning it from side to side with an air of
satisfied possession, drawing in the cool air through her nostrils and
parted lips with sensuous delight--this pale creature whose eyes showed
a savage response to the cajoling beauty about her.

Convinced at last that the garden held no secret, save that of certain
flowers and fruits cultivated to unknown perfection,--for she had
explored it from the limiting wall to where the pallid outline of some
building of the Mission gleamed through the trees,--she came back to
the fountain and sat down on the wooden bench at the path’s edge, her
flowers heaped in her lap. She gave herself a few moments more to
watch the leaping ball, which now sparkled like silver in the midst of
glittering spray. A shaft of moonlight, striking through the trees upon
the jet of water, crept steadily downward. The girl, her eyes fixed
on this trembling column of white fire and foam, fell in a vague,
trance-like dream. The ripple of the fountain in her ears drowned the
echo of slow footsteps advancing along the path.

It was Father Anselmo’s custom, while digesting his supper of meat pasty
and chocolate, to pace the garden, whose beauty seldom failed to inspire
him with poetical images, and to add each evening some dozen lines to
his panegyric ode on Saint Francis. Anselmo was, in fact, a poet,--but
a poet whose strictly regulated fancy never openly strayed beyond the
confines of the cloister. His gentle muse sang consecrated themes alone.
And if, surrounded by an indolent, veiled fervor of tropical nature, apt
to long, arid trances, and to sudden outbursts of fierce luxuriance, his
imagination was sometimes troubled, these secret vagaries were repressed
or found no acknowledged utterance. In his black, shapeless robe, above
which his placid face showed like a sickly moon, the father, whether
meditating on the pasty or Saint Francis, seemed no prey to the poetic
ardor; its afflatus left him undizzied and peaceful. Yet the mystery of
the night, the garden’s magic, must have struck some responsive chord
within him. For how else should his bodily eyes have beheld beneath the
shadow of the acacia bushes a creature not human, surely not divine; no
spiritual vision, but an apparition born of the earth and evil. It sat
half-visible, buried to the chin in flowers, motionless, its face a mere
pale shimmer, its great shadowy eyes fixed upon him. These eyes were
terrifying.

Anselmo retreated some steps upon their discovery; then, after much
hesitation, advanced again, extending the cross of his rosary and
muttering with trembling lips certain words of proved potency. But
neither holy symbol nor exorcism availed against the evil spirit. It
refused to flee; sat dumb--it seemed to Anselmo disdainful. Suddenly,
wrathful, he took another step forward; the creature drew in its breath
sharply, with an audible sound; its lips parted, showing a row of
gleaming teeth. Anselmo paused.

This was, he perceived, the spirit of the garden, and it was plainly
hostile. Was he, then, the intruder? Vaguely a sense of helpless fright
invaded his soul. Yes, the trees were in league with this being; they
bent towards him threateningly! The air was full of veiled alarms. What
of the rosebushes which even now reached out clutching hands to detain
him? An overblown white rose broke and fell in a soft shower about his
shoulders, and he started; a bat swooped down with swift, filmy wings,
just grazing his head; he shrank back.

Could it be that he was in danger, that his wandering thoughts were
known, that his sinful fancies had thus taken shape to confound him?
Anselmo crossed himself. It was true--moved by the garden’s spell he had
sometime in reverie invoked the animating principle of this beauty
of earth, which he knew well was soulless and evil--and behold it
incarnate!

Yet the apparition did not menace him overtly, perhaps it felt his
spiritual armor proof. Nevertheless, it was his part to fly possible
danger, to deliver over the unhallowed domain to its true possessor.
What part had he in these caresses of the breeze, these wooings of
flowers, these marriages of insects, this glamour of nocturnal magic?

Knowing, as he did, the evil power of the moon at its full, how had he
been persuaded to walk in debatable ground where that demoniac glory,
rising warm and wanton above the trees, could mock and threaten him?
Under the branches of the acacia the shadow sat still in deeper shadow;
save that the rays of the moon fell upon two slim, naked feet, which the
short grass could not cover. It had taken, then, the form of a woman,
that the garden and its tradition might be doubly desecrated! Anselmo’s
indignation was not fierce enough to nerve his soul, weakened by mystic
terrors. He turned to fly, but, instead, uttered an exclamation, calling
in a trembling voice:

“Brother Emanuel!”

“I am coming,” was the answer.

Another black robe, another pale face, appeared beside him, and, like
him, started back at perceiving the strange figure. After consultation
in whispers the bolder monk approached the acacia.

“This is no spirit, Brother Anselmo--it is a woman!” he cried.

“A woman! How could a woman get into the garden?”

The first speaker cast a troubled glance in the direction of the high
wall.

“True,” he said uncertainly. “Still it must be.”

But involuntarily he moved a step nearer his companion.

Both glanced down at the slender feet in the grass. These seemed to
move, and the spirit, or woman, turned her head swiftly from side to
side. Her breath came quicker, but the monks could not hear it, or they
might have taken courage.

“It is astonishing,” murmured Brother Emanuel, uneasily.

While they stood undecided between the attack and the retreat, suddenly
from the chapel near by the organ gave voice in a deep, swelling chord,
which climbed by subtle and suave modulations and soared aloft into a
tender melody.

“It is Brother Angelo,” whispered Anselmo.

“It is holy music!” said Emanuel, devoutly, and he made the sign of the
cross in the air before him.

The tremulous notes, growing louder, drowned the rustle of the leaves,
the plash of the fountain, the sigh of the wind. It seemed as though the
garden hushed half-unwillingly to listen, when a voice, humanly deep and
sweet, but spiritualized into something not less than divine, took up
the melody and bore it higher and heavenward, pouring out into the night
a flood of ecstasy and aspiration. The march of the music was solemn and
splendid, and its soul was a joy unearthly and beyond utterance.

The black-robed brothers stood and listened, rebuked and dumb, turning
their faces toward the glimmering wall of the chapel, and forgetting for
a moment the fears which had agitated them, with their cause. What were
all the potencies of the passionate earth, so easily diverted from good,
against this royal dominion?

The evil-seeming spell was broken. A sudden movement, no sound but a
stirring of the air, recalled their attention. The foliage of the acacia
trembled as though a bird had taken wing. The bench was vacant, flowers
strewed the ground before it, the presence had vanished. Her white feet
or a breath of air had borne her away. The diapason of the organ drowned
the sound her flight might have made; and the trees bent as though to
bury in shadow her possible path. Emanuel made a long step forward.

“Woman or spirit, she is gone!” he cried, and stooped to see what trace
of her those scattered roses might show. Anselmo grasped his companion’s
sleeve.

“Do not touch them,” he entreated, glancing fearfully over his shoulder.
“Who knows what spell is upon them?”

True, when found next morning, withered and scentless, these flowers
appeared commonplace enough. Nor did there exist other proof that on
this spot two brothers of the order had beheld a strange and dangerous
vision. None the less was their sober account accepted implicitly by
the brethren, of whom the wiser ever thereafter avoided to walk in the
garden at the moon’s full; though certain of the more youthful were
known to adventure themselves at that place and season.

It is not recorded that their daring and zeal met with any reward
or recognition. Nor, perhaps, is this to be wondered at. For if any
wandering spirit, coveting, yet not daring to enter the garden, had
strayed near to the confining wall, it must have heard daily the solemn
chant of the Church’s exorcism directed against all powers unholy; it
must daily have beheld a slow procession of monks make the circuit of
the shell-strewn paths, sprinkling the ground with holy-water to purify
it from the contaminating touch of a woman’s foot. And if, spirit
or woman, it were still undeterred, there was Angelo’s music at
evening--like another flaming sword at the gate of this Eveless Eden!



ORESTE’S PATRON

By Grace Ellery Channing

THE Signore Americano, musing over his morning coffee on the Villa
terrace, gazed intently into the distance where Florence lay invisible
behind the hills.

“Buon’ giorno, Signore!” called Oreste, reining in Elisabetta and
lifting his cap with a smile.

“Buon’ giorno!” returned the Signore, starting. “Ah, you are going to
the city, and I wanted to go myself!”

Oreste looked troubled.

“Signore,--how much I am sorry! It displeases me, but I am already
promised to my patron. When one is poor, one must think of the francs
for the family,” he added apologetically.

The Signore, who knew no such necessity, frowned.

“This is the fifth time this Carnivale--and you just married! If I had a
_sposina_--”

“The Signore’s _sposina_ would lack for nothing,” smiled Oreste. “We
others,--we must do as we can. As for Gioja, she goes to pass the day
with her _nonna_ at Vincigliata. I will bring the Signore’s mail as
usual.”

The Signore waved his hand impatiently, and knocked the ashes from his
cigarette, then, as the shabby cab, with Elisabetta pulling heroically
back against the steepness, wound from sight, his glance softened.
It was a piece of fortune surely for a Vignola cabman to have a city
patron. Fortunes were not to be made up here where nobody but the
_forestieri_, who came from time to time to make a _villegiatura_ in
one or another of the villas, would think of wasting francs for the sole
purpose of getting somewhere. The inhabitants stayed where they found
themselves placed by Providence. To all intents, Vignola might be a
hundred miles from Florence instead of a bare six. Besides, a stranger
Signore passes with the season, but a city patron remains. Nuisance
as it was to have his own plans conflicted with, the Signore forgave
Oreste.

Fifteen minutes later this melting mood congealed again, as a slender
figure stole quietly down the Way.

It was Gioja, walking with her usual listless grace.

Her small head, its crisply waved Tuscan hair bound with a kerchief of
dull blue, was carried far back as no kerchiefed head has a right to be;
and her eyes, blue as the kerchief but not dull, looked straight ahead,
dilated and musing. She did not see the Signore,--a thing that could
have befallen no other girl in the village, unless it were blind Chiara,
and the Signore watched her go with a frown,--for this was not the
direction of Vincigliata. And why was she starting so early, unless
to defeat the glances with which all these closed doors would soon be
alive?

Yet he continued to watch her. There were other girls in the village
just as pretty. Many a strain of noble blood had gone to the making of
these Vignolese peasants. This was not the first girl the Signore
had seen who looked as if--change her gown and tie a bonnet over her
hair--she might loll in her carriage of an afternoon at the Cascine with
the best of the fine ladies in the city below. But there was no other
whom the Signore ever leaned over the wall to look after. And as he
leaned his frown deepened; he was sorry for Oreste; but--marry a girl
like that and leave her alone, in Italy! Anybody might foresee the end.
And he frowned again, not at Gioja this time, who had disappeared from
view, but at a mental image, wearing, it is true, an air dangerously
like that of Oreste’s _sposa_.

Yes, indeed, anybody might foretell the end. That was what the whole
community, already buzzing with the scandal, said. And it was exactly
what the Padre said when, five minutes later, he came up the path and
sank upon the marble seat, mopping his brow beneath the beaver hat.

“I have been to Oreste’s,” he said apologetically, “and thought I would
look in upon the Signore in passing. There was nobody there.”

The Signore, engaged in pouring red wine for his guest, made no
response, and the priest stole a troubled glance at him as he took the
glass from his hand.

“Perhaps, Signore, you may have seen them pass, and can tell me if that
child went with her husband?”

“No,” said the Signore, after a minute’s deliberation, “I could not.”

His guest sighed as he sipped the wine. He had grown gray in the service
of the village. He had known Gioja from her babyhood. His was the hand
which had held and oiled and dipped her at the font, and had led her
from then until her present estate; and he, if any one, had a right to
borrow trouble, seeing that all troubles were brought to him in the end.
His fine, thin lips shut above the wineglass in the sensitive line which
marks the better of Rome’s two types. His soul was straight and simple.
The one vanity it owned was to be on terms of companionship with the
occupant of the big villa. The half hour on its terrace or in its
salotto formed his social dissipation, and dearly did he prize the
importance it gave him in the eyes of his flock. Nay, it gave importance
to the whole community.

“Not every village has a priest like ours,” said the gossips,
complacently, “that a so-educated stranger Signore would make so much
of.”

Moreover, if his people were poor, God alone knows how poor their priest
was, and the Signore possessed a fine taste in wines,--true Chianti,
a very different thing from _vino rosso_ at eighty centesimi the
flask,--while his lavishness was that of his country.

As for the Signore, he would pour the oil from a fresh flask any time
to unseal the lips pressed together as now over the case of Oreste’s
_sposa_.

“The truth is,” sighed the priest, “the end is too easy to foresee. The
child is not like others; and there is nothing worse than that. That’s
what Luigi’s _sposa_ said yesterday when I rebuked her for thinking
evil, and recalled to her how Gioja helped nurse her three through the
fever only last spring. ‘Oh, I’m not saying she has n’t a heart,’ said
Luigi’s _sposa_; ‘but you can’t deny that all is not right when a girl
is different from all the rest; it is better to have less heart and
be more like one’s neighbors.’ And Luigi’s wife had reason. Nothing is
worse than to be different from all the folk about you. When I had
her safely married, I thought indeed there would be an end of
trouble;--Heaven grant it do not prove a beginning!”

“Does she not love her husband?”

“Who can tell?” sighed the priest, impatiently. “Oreste is not one to
set the Arno afire, but he is a good lad. But about her he is a mule,--a
very mule. Would you believe, Signore, when I ventured a word,--I, whose
duty it is,--he flared up like a Befana torch,--he whose manner to me
ordinarily is a lesson to the community!”

The Signore smiled and reflected upon the strength of man.

“One would say I had spoken ill of the Saints,” continued the
exasperated priest. “And the thing is becoming insufferable,--such a
tale of scandal as some one whispers to me every day. One would think
she has neither eyes nor ears, and cares not whether she has friends or
foes for neighbors.” There is, in truth, no such broad and flowery path
to unpopularity as this which Gioja undeviatingly pursued. Nobody who
elects to be unlike his neighbors gets social good of it. Had not the
Signore himself seen?

Bad enough it was to have her sitting wide-eyed and absolutely
indifferent at her machine, and so pretty that one could see the youths
looking at her when they pretended not to; or mooning over her straw
work with never a word of gossip or a little story about a friend, more
than if they were all stones: but what did these absences all by herself
mean, which looked the worse now that she was a decent man’s wife?
It was an absolute scandal--which is only another name for a godsend
sometimes--to a sober community.

Oreste might pretend to shut his eyes,--he had always been a fool about
her; but it could not be asked that all the village should do the same,
especially those girls who would have made decent wives if any one had
given _them_ the chance, and those lads who would have known how to keep
a wife in order if they had taken one.

The priest, thinking of these things, sighed. He, too, might affect
blindness; but he would need to be stone deaf as well to escape hearing
what every tongue in the village felt it a duty and a privilege to
confide to him daily.

“It must be admitted that the Signorina Americana has something to
answer for,” the priest wound up, as he invariably did, and always with
an indulgent accent which forgave while it accused.

The Signorina Americana!--how many times was she not levelled at the
ears of the Signore Americano who had inherited her tradition with
the villa of which he was the next lessee. If the contadini were to be
believed, there was little for which she might not be held accountable.
They spoke of her smilingly, Oreste tenderly, the priest indulgently
(the Signorina also had possessed a generous taste in wines), and Gioja
not at all. Yet apparently it was precisely Gioja who might have had
most to say.

“Ah, yes; if I could have foreseen when I brought that child to her!
But what harm could come to her from earning a few francs as the
Signo-rina’s maid? I chose her for the very reason that she had more
gentleness and was more educated than the others,--the Signorina, your
countrywoman, was herself very educated and full of _gentilezza_. But
she was too good to Gioja, and then she could never be made to see. She
had a way with her,--when I began to remonstrate with her she would fill
up my glass and ask about my poor, and, before I knew it--_altro!_ she
was very generous, your countrywoman. But if there are many like her in
your country it must be a terrible place; a man would not possess his
own soul.”

The Signore laughed.

“She would sit here--precisely where I sit now--and smile a little smile
she had, and twist this rose-vine about her fingers, and just so she
twisted us all. Ah,” he concluded, lifting his glass, “she was truly
terrible, that Signorina; but _simpatica, altro!_ never have I seen so
_simpatica_ a signorina.”

_Simpatica!_ When you are that, there is nothing else you can be; and
when you are not that, nothing that you can be is of any use. When
everybody, down to the newsboys and cab-openers, loves you and doesn’t
know why,--you are _simpatica_; when people would rather do things for
you than not, and don’t care about the payment,--then you may be sure
you are _simpatica_; when the expression of their eyes and the tones
of their voices change insensibly when they look at and speak to
you,--there is no room to doubt that you are _simpatica_. You may not
be rich, nor beautiful, nor “educated” (such a very different thing from
book-fed), but you do not need to be. _Simpatica_ is the comprehending
sky of praise in which separate stars of admiration are swallowed up.

While the Signore figured rapidly the mischief possible of
accomplishment by a dangerous Signorina possessing this attribute, the
priest drank another glass of wine and returned to the trouble of his
soul.

“I thought, indeed, with a wife’s work to do, she would settle down like
others; but Oreste encourages her wilfulness.”

“Why do you not speak to Gioja herself?”

“Heaven forbid!” exclaimed the priest, crossing himself. “I have tried
that once. She has a terrible nature,--that child! I have never told
any one; but see if I have not reason to say so, Signore.” He sipped his
wine agitatedly, and then began with feeling:--

“It was the Signorina to begin with; she saw that the child was pretty,
and she put ideas in her head. And in fact, though Heaven forbid I
should compare Gioja, who is only a little _contadina_. with a real
Signorina, yet she has always seemed to me to have a little something
about her which recalls the Signorina herself,--a way of walking and
carrying her head. And the Signorina had not an idea of keeping her in
her place. She was always giving her gowns and ribbons and trinkets and
vanities of all kinds,--that was her way, always giving. The end of it
was that one day I surprised that child with a hat of the Signorina’s
on her unhappy head; yes, actually, Signore, if you will credit me,
a hat,--a _cappello di signora_ on her head!” He spread his hands in
deprecating despair.

The Signore looked blankly.

“Oh, Signore, you are like your countrywoman; it is impossible to make
you understand! But it must be a country,--yours! For a girl like Gioja
to put a hat on is to declare herself without shame at once. Honest
girls of her class let such _roba di signore_ alone; yes, and rightly,
for God has put people in their places. A girl who showed herself in a
signora’s hat would find it impossible to live in Vignola; she would
be hooted out of the village. And as for the wife of a lad like Oreste
pretending to that,--half-a-dozen lovers would not be a worse scandal.
Those at least the others could understand, but a _cappello di
signora_--” He stopped to take several agitated sips, shaking his head
all the time. “I do not say she would have been so mad as to cross
the threshold in it (the Signorina had given it to her to sell for
the feathers upon it); but who could tell what such a girl might do? I
scolded her well for her wicked vanity, and such ideas above her place.
Santa Maria!--lovers and such are enough, without a scandal like that
among my people.

“Well, what was the end? Signore, she rushed off and hung that hat, with
at least twenty francs’ worth of good feathers on it, in the Madonna’s
chapel, beside ‘Maso’s crutch and the little hearts and legs and other
offerings to Our Lady! There it hung, where all the world would see
it, and every tongue in the place be set wagging, if I had not
providentially gone in and found it before Mass next day. And even then
what could I do? It was the Madonna’s, and I dared not remove it. But
Heaven sends accidents, and as it chanced, _providentially_, Signore,
my candle brushed the feathers in passing and, _presto_, I dropped it
quickly into a bucket of water. It was not fit for Our Lady after that,
so I took it away, and I myself made it up to her in candles, that no
one might feel hurt. And after all nobody was the richer for all those
francs’ worth of feathers; they were singed more than I hoped, and
did not bring me in Florence the price of the candles. Oh, she has a
terrible nature,--that Gioja! No, no, _grazie_,--if I must speak to
Oreste, I must; but to her!--candles cost, Signore, and I am a poor
man.”

Still shaking his head, he rose to depart.

The Signore, left alone, paced the terrace a few times, smiling to
himself; then he sat down again,--this time in the priest’s place,--and
fell to musing, and as he mused his fingers stole almost furtively to
the long rose-tendrils, and twisted them gently, while the smile died
abruptly on his lips.

Presently he rang, and Giuseppina came out.

“You may take away these things,” said the Signore, “and bring me pen
and paper. Oh, and by the way, Giuseppina, in future put my seat
here,--the valley sees itself better.”

Coming from the post that evening the Signore was aware of a slender
shape slipping along through the deepening shadows ahead. Quickening his
steps, he overtook it easily.

“_Buon sera_; so it is you, Gioja?”

“Si, Signore!”--the voice was both startled and appealing.

But the Signore strode along looking keenly at the downcast face.

“Oreste is not with you?”

“No, Signore; he went to the city.”

“And you have doubtless been visiting your nonna?”

“Yes, Signore,”--the voice was almost inaudible.

The Signore turned on his heel, with a curt “_Buona sera!_” and was
still muttering things under his breath when, fifteen minutes later,
he beheld from the terrace Oreste and Elisabetta toiling wearily up the
hill.

“How well she times it,” he thought contemptuously, as the bell of the
big gate sounded, and he heard Giuseppina’s challenge: “Who is it?”

“_Amici_, friends,” answered Oreste’s voice, and Oreste swiftly
followed, with his frank smile and a square envelope of dull blue, which
the Signore’s hand involuntarily stretched to grasp.

“_Ecco_, Signore,--the only one!” said Oreste, with that polite gesture
of regret with which he daily accompanied this small comedy. The Signore
having possessed himself of the letter avidly, put it into his pocket
with ostentatious carelessness and coolly lighted a cigarette. Oreste
smiled comprehendingly but respectfully.

“You have had a long day of it?”

“Yes, Signore,” Oreste smiled with the satisfied air of one who has done
a good day’s work.

“I suppose you have made a handful of money,” continued the Signore,
severely.

Oreste shrugged his shoulders. “Not great things,--but, _altro_, I am
content.”

The Signore shrugged in his turn. “Each to his own mind. Your _sposina_
has also made a long day; I saw her just now.”

“Ah, yes; it is a long way to Vincigliata, when one must walk. The
Signore’s commands?”

“None.”

Truly, the Signorina Americana, if this was her work, had small reason
to be proud of it. The Signore’s frown enveloped even the blue envelope,
at which he stood staring long after Oreste had left the room.

And so it ran through the spring months,--the mournfully beautiful
Tuscan spring. The nightingales in the villa gardens sang and sang, at
dusk, in the moonlight, and at dawn, and the fireflies glittered all
through the darkness up and down the olive slopes. An intenser life
quickened in the little community as the summer stirred in the veins
of her children. The youths went singing up and down the hills, and the
girls and women lingered over their water jars at the fountain in the
square. For what is it to be poor in the summer time?

Sometimes the Signore, lying awake at night, heard Oreste’s mellow voice
as he passed by to the little house. But through all this gayety of
being Gioja stole silently and dreamily, and the whisper of turned
heads and eyes askance followed her. For there were the ever-recurring
_festas_, when Oreste went to the city, and where then did Oreste’s
_sposa_ go? That is what the community would like to know; for the tale
of her grandmother was quite too large for the village throat. She kept
her secret well,--yes; but there is only one kind of a secret possible
to the Italian mind.

“Birbone!” said the women, with contempt of Oreste, while the men
laughed and shrugged their shoulders. Oreste had caught a pretty _sposa_
who had thought herself much too good for them, but, _ma chè_,--he was
paying for it.

It was impossible that the public curiosity should content itself with
being curious. Maria, one of those public-minded souls which never lack
in any community, toiled all the way over to Vincigliata, and brought
back personal assurance from the _nonna_ herself that that pious
granddaughter had not been seen in Vincigliata all these months.

“Eight good miles I trudged in all that sun, and a day’s work lost,”
 declared Maria, mopping her brow in the midst of an excited and
sympathetic group. “_If_ my legs ache! But for the good of the community
I did it; and what I know to-night the priest shall know before morning.
I made haste to go to-day, for to-morrow, being the _festa_ of our Saint
John, Oreste goes to the city, and that _civetta_--”

And nobody could say but that Maria had done well, and the girl deserved
whatever might come of it.

But when the priest, sad-eyed and stern, knocked at the door of the
little house in the early morning after Mass, no one was there. Having
delivered a vain fusillade, to the accompaniment of many suggestions
offered from the neighbors’ windows, the priest turned away and betook
himself, with a clouded brow, to the Signore, who had invited him, by
Oreste, to breakfast with him that morning. He was waiting for him now
on the terrace with a morning countenance; and the breakfast-table,
heaped with roses, wore a festal air which did not escape the priest,
preoccupied though he was.

“You also are keeping a feast, Signore, to appearances?”

“Yes.”

“Ah, indeed! a _festa_ Americana?”

“No, my own. And now what is it about these two? Oreste, I know, went to
the city. I tried to engage him, but he was pre-engaged to that patron
of his. And Gioja,--well, I saw her pass a little later.”

“While we were in the church,--the guilty child!” said the priest,
sternly. “But where can she have gone?” he added, sighing. “I have been
much to blame; I have been too negligent; I should have dealt with
her from the first. _Culpa mia!_” He crossed himself and looked so
discouraged that the Signore was touched.

“Listen, _amico mio_,” he said. “As you say, it is a bad business; and,
arrange it how you will, it will never be well that those two shall live
here. The last of it will never be heard,--if I know your people. I am
going away to Livorno next week, and I have asked Oreste to go with me.
I like the fellow, and away from here she may come to her senses. She is
young, and, guilty though she may be, she does not seem case-hardened.”

“Going away!” exclaimed the startled priest, in dismay. “And going to
take those two away from their own country,--to a foreign place! What an
idea,--but what an idea!”

“Scarcely foreign; it is only the other side of Florence.”

“Ah, ah! to you, but to us villagers! It is not a little thing to leave
one’s home, where one has been born and bred, and knows his neighbors,
after all, whether they be good or bad. It is a great thing to know
one’s neighbors. And to go so far!--but they will think twice before
they say ‘Yes.’”

“On the contrary, Oreste goes willingly. I do not think he is so blind;
he knows well they are not friendly to his _sposa_ here.”

“And Gioja,” said the startled priest, “will she go?”

“He says so.”

The priest drew a long breath, half relief, half regret, and wholly
wonder.

“Well, well, it is perhaps the best that could happen. But to lose two
of my flock--and to leave one’s country like that! You are a strange
people, you Americans. And what becomes of us without either you or the
Signorina Americana here in the villa?”

“There are more Americans,” replied the Signore, smiling; “and who knows
but that your Signorina will return to make you more trouble yet?”

The priest shook his head. “The next time she may bring her own maid.
Not another girl from our village shall she turn the head of, that
Signorina,” and the very tone of his voice as he said it was witness
that he affirmed what he knew to be false. The Signore understood and
laughed.

“Put it all away, _amico mio_, for to-day, and go with me to Florence.
Gioja has gone; and you can do nothing but listen to your people, who
will deafen you before night. Come and see your _bella Firenze_ in her
_festa_ dress. We will take a tram below and find a cab at the gates.”

The priest’s face brightened like a child’s.

“Ah, Signore, now it is I you are proposing to carry away! But why not?
It is long since I was in Florence, and I have already said service
here. But it is not necessary to say anything to my people. Discretion,
Signore, discretion is a great thing!”

And thus it happened that when the village folk saw the good father
depart in company with the Signore _forestiere_, they sagely concluded,
with that sense of the importance of our own affairs common to the race,
that the two had gone to Fiesole, or who knew but even Florence, to
consult the authorities in the matter of that unhappy Gioja. And,
in point of fact, though the priest was fairly running away from the
subject, he was destined to run straight into its arms instead.

Florence was all in _festa_; and if there is anything lovelier than
Florence in _festa_, who has seen it? The streets ran over with bright
sunshine; and the Florentines, reinforced by _contadini_ from all the
neighboring towns, in holiday garb, made a bright, shifting mass for
the sunbeams to play over. Arno rolled its now shallow stream like muddy
gold, and pale golden palaces stood loftily up and looked down at her.
Over her streaming Ways, Florence shook the bells in all her towers
every fifteen minutes, and at intervals the deep, golden-throated voice
in Giotto’s Tower answered with a rich hum, hum-m, hum-m-m, like a
melodious summer bee. The strident notes of the _grilli_, in their
little wicker cages, brought from the Cascine at dawn, completed the
joyous pandemonium.

The Signore’s spirits ran at higher tide than even the bright tide of
humanity about him. He laughed at all; he bought flowers of the boys and
girls who ran after the carriage holding up glowing armfuls, until
the carriage-seat was heaped, and the priest held up his hands at the
extravagance. He climaxed his folly by buying all the remaining _grilli_
in their cages, and letting them loose upon the grass of the Cascine.

“Do not scold, _amico mio_,” he said to the priest gayly; “I told you it
is a _festa_. I have come into a fortune, and it is written that nobody
must be shut up to-day or hungry.” He tossed a handful of soldi to a
group of children.

“I am afraid your fortune will not last long,” replied the priest,
shaking his head.

But he forgot his own prudence when, a little later, they went to
a restaurant,--not Doney’s, where the foolish tourists go,
fancying themselves in Italy, and where the priest would have been
miserable,--but Gilli’s on the Piazza Signoria. There, it being a feast
day, and his host newly come into a fortune, the good father ate, for
the honor of religion and his own temporal good, such a meal as had
never before found its way to his stomach, and washed it down with
glasses of Chianti, not merely old (vecchio), but extravagantly old
(stravecchio). Golden moments were these, and he put down his glass
at last with a sigh of regret that it was impossible to prolong them
further. His limit of possibility was reached.

“Now,” said the Signore, casting an extravagant fee upon the table,
“where next?”

“To the Baptistery and the Duomo, my son,” answered the priest, with
sudden gravity, crossing himself, “to say our _grazie_, and put up a
little prayer to our good Saint John.”

It was precisely upon emerging from the door of Gilli’s in this
comfortable and untroubled frame of mind, arising from the perfect
balance of the carnal and the spiritual, that he came face to face
with the worst trouble of all. For, straightening his shabby hat
and smoothing his shabby cassock, what should his eyes fall upon but
Oreste,--Oreste, who, having that moment emerged from a café below, was
assisting a very elegant signora into his cab. Just as he got her safely
tucked in, his eye caught the two pairs staring at him. His sturdy face
blanched; then, before either could make step forward, he had shut the
door, sprung quickly to the seat, and, touching up Elisabetta, with
a glance of defiance whirled away. The two left, staring, drew a long
breath.

“_Ebbene_,” remarked the Signore, at last, “so the patron was a
_padrona_; perhaps Gioja has not been so much to blame after all.”

“I will know,” answered the priest, sharply.

The Signore said a word to the nearest cabman, slipping something into
his hand, and in a moment they were bowling up the Via Calzaioli. It
cost a city cabman nothing to keep Elisabetta in sight; and they drew
up in the Piazza del Duomo just in time to see Oreste deferentially
assisting his Signora to alight at the Cathedral steps. He saw them and
his eyes shot such a glance of stern warning that both men sat stupidly,
and the next moment nearly fell over each other as the Signora, in her
silks and nodding plumes, swept by,--for, lo, it was Gioja!

In another instant she had swept up the steps and the great doors had
swallowed her. Then Oreste’s manner changed. He leaned against the
cab-door, and turned upon the two men a regard which said: “And now what
have you to say about it?”

There was a decidedly awkward silence while they drew near; then the
Signore burst out laughing.

“You have found a fine patron, _amico mio!_” he said.

“What folly!” ejaculated the priest, holding up his hands and recovering
breath at last. “Gran’ Dioy what folly!”

“Reverendo,” replied Oreste, quietly, “perhaps not so much folly as some
of you have thought. Perhaps I know what the tongues up there wag like,
and if I choose not to mind, whose affair is that? If it pleases us to
please ourselves, who is the worse for that?”

“And the scandal!” exclaimed the priest. “And the waste, and the ideas
you are putting in Gioja’s head,--the wicked vanity and pride--Oh, I
told the Signorina how it would end!”

“As for that, Reverendo, you will pardon me; but tongues must wag when
they are hung in the middle, and if they wag about Gioja,--why it does
n’t hurt her, and some one else goes safe. And as for the waste,--the
price of a fare now and then,--why if it suits us to live on polenta six
days, and take our pleasure on the seventh, whose misery is that? I have
never yet lacked my soldo for the Church or for a neighbor poorer than
I.”

“And the ideas you are encouraging in her unhappy head!--but I will have
something to say to that child.”

“Reverendo,” interposed Oreste, sternly, “by your leave,--you are a good
man, half a saint, and I am only an ignorant peasant, but there are
some things priests and nuns do not understand, and what one does not
understand, that one should not meddle with. The Signorina understood;
she knew well it was neither pride nor vanity in Gioja, but just a
kind of _poesia_ which made her like to play the signora. The Signorina
understood because she herself was full of _poesia_.”

“Oh, the Signorina,--the Signorina!” interjected the priest, in despair.

“She _knew_,” Oreste went on. “You remember the time of the hat,
Reverendo?”

“_If_ I remember!” groaned the priest.

“_Ebbene!_” said Oreste, emphatically, “when I found it out, I went
straight to the Signorina and told her. She was on the terrace, and
she sat down and laughed a little. You remember our Signorina’s way of
laughing?”

It was to the priest that he addressed this; but it was the Signore,
looking straight before him and smiling, who looked as if he remembered.

“Nothing would do,” continued Oreste, “but that she must jump into my
cab then and there, with only a lace on her head, and she a Signorina!
[here the Signore laughed aloud]--and drive straight to Florence, not to
one of the small shops, but to the great milliner’s on Tornabuoni, where
she bought a hat,--who knows what it cost?--and she bade me take it
to Gioja and tell her to wear it when she liked, for there was nothing
wicked about it.”

The priest groaned again.

“Only,” added Oreste, with the suspicion of a twinkle, “she bade us
say nothing about it, lest you, Reverendo, might think it your duty to
lecture the child again; and it was a pity, she said, to make so good a
man uncomfortable. So, as she could not wear it openly, we had to find a
way under the plate; and as the whole village would have been talking if
we went away together, I had to make that little story of a patron. Once
outside of Vignola, I wait for Gioja, and there in the olive grove
she makes herself into a signora; and on the way home we stop again,
and--the signora’s hat and gown stowed away under my seat--my little
_sposa_ climbs up beside me and we talk it all over. And then the next
day I count my francs, and the folk call me ‘_Birbone_;’ and the lads
think evil of my Gioja because she would never look at them; and we
laugh in our sleeves. What does all that matter when one is happy?”

“And so,” said the priest, sternly, “you let all Vignola think your wife
has a lover, and say nothing?”

“They have to think something; and isn’t it better they should think she
has a lover, Reverendo, than a _cappello di signora?_”

“Surely,” assented the priest, quickly; “a lover, at least, they can all
understand; and only too many of them--Madonna pardon them!--have had;
but a signora’s hat nobody in the village has ever had, and they
would never pardon Gioja for having. And they have right; Gioja has no
business with a signora’s hat, nor you to waste your time and money, as
if you would be _bambini_ all your lives. And for you, a man, to make
yourself the servant of your wife,--oh, it is shameful, _vergognoso!_”

“Pardon again, Reverendo, but that, too, you can’t understand. If it is
Gioja’s _poesia_ to play the signora,--why, Gioja is _my poesia_. As for
its lasting, _altro!_ the future is long; and if we had others to feed
all that might be different. She is only a child herself now; but when
the good God sends a child to a child, that makes a woman of her; He
himself sees to that. When that comes, she will care nothing to play the
signora with her stupid Oreste. All this our Signorina knew; for that
night, when the child came to me weeping, and saying how wicked she had
been, and begging me to forgive her and marry her at once, _at once_--I,
Signori, who would have married her any moment for years!--it put me in
trouble. I had fear to take her like that, and perhaps have her sorry
for it later. But I went to our Signorina with her, and told her all;
and she looked at us both and said: ‘Marry her, Oreste; you safely may;’
for the Signorina understood. And so--I married her.”

The eyes of the two young men met suddenly, and exchanged across the
gulf of position and race one rapid thrill of comprehension. The priest
looked half-timidly at both; but perhaps he, too, comprehended something,
for he said meekly,--

“After all, I did no harm.”

“Perhaps not,” replied Oreste, with his frank smile; “but that was not
your fault, Reverendo. And now, if the Signore and you will excuse me,
that was the bell of the Elevation. If Gioja saw you, she would have no
more pleasure; and that would be all the more a pity, because it is
our last _festa_ here. We are going to live with the Signore and his
Signora. Is n’t it so, Signore?”

“Ah, ah!” exclaimed the priest, with vivacity, “so that was your _festa_
and your fortune, Signore? And that is why you have so much sympathy for
even the _grills_ and these foolish children! Well, well, it is perhaps
the best that could happen; for it would be impossible to go on giving
scandal like this, and if I said a word you would all be for taking my
life. It may do for Gioja, who is not like the others; but Heaven forbid
the other _ragazze_ should get such ideas in their heads; I have enough
to do to keep track of them and their affairs as it is.”

“Signori!” said Oreste, warningly. The two slunk behind the next cab,
and from there beheld the stream of life suddenly burst from the big
doors of the Duomo,--men and women and children, prince and citizen
and peasant, and among them a slender, graceful shape, her cappello di
signora sitting well upon the ruffled gold of her hair, and her long
skirt raised in one gloved hand with a gesture at which the Signore’s
heart beat suddenly faster against the blue envelope above it. So very
excellent an imitation of the Signora that even an expert need not blush
to be deceived by it.

Oreste stepped forward and flung open the cab-door with ostentation. The
Signora mounted languidly, and sank back against the cushions, making
a great rustling of silk. The loungers on the Duomo steps stole covert
glances at the pretty woman. Then Oreste slammed the door, took off his
hat, and approached deferentially.

“Commanda, Signora?” he said, loud enough for everybody to hear.

“_Alla casa_,--home,” responded the Signora, with superb languor.

And, mounting upon the seat, with a parting glance of mingled triumph
and humor in the direction of the two watchers, Oreste, Elisabetta, and
the Signora whirled triumphantly away.

The two left upon the sidewalk remained speechless for a few minutes;
then the priest’s eye caught his companion’s, deprecatingly, but with an
echo of Oreste’s twinkle.

“That Signorina,” he said, with an indulgent sigh, “she has much to
answer for!”

But the Signore, looking into the distance and laughing softly to
himself, said not a word.



THE APPEAL TO ANNE

By Edward Cummings



I--FROM ROGER

YOU are my friend. Therefore I am sure of your patience. My dearest,
yield it to me now, of all times! This is a confession and prayer.

True, I might dissemble still. Chance lends the ready garment.

But I am resolved I will have no more lies. I will speak the truth,
though I lose you. I never knew much good to come of lies.

Dear, if you love me much, this will pain you bitterly. I should be glad
to die now, if so I rightly might, that you might think of me always as
you do now, and _she_ might never know, or be wounded in her faith and
pride.

For me has been destined the doing of that wrong I look upon as the
deadliest of all. Treachery is the crime, and the crime is mine.

Let me tell you again, you tender woman, you dearest and noblest in the
world, how I love you. I think of you constantly, I yearn for your sweet
companionship. You are my dear ideal,--you are to me all peacefulness
and worth and wisdom and womanly greatness and incomparable grace. You
are the pure air to me.

Dear, it is because my love for you is the best that is in me that I am
at such pains to make my confession absolute. My heart grows imperious
at thought of you, and leaps for the highest course, though that bids
for the supernal sacrifice of losing you--you, so sweetly gained! For
you I should be happy to die now, heart in hand.

It would be sweet, I think, to die now, to leave this black dilemma, to
vanish utterly. And yet, while you live, all splendor and all graces are
here!

... Dear Anne, there is another woman I have been making love to--how I
loathe to write the name--Doris Ewing, who loves me as I love you, and
to whom I grew tender just in hopelessness of you.

So far away in the North you were, so like the figment of a fond
impossible ideal, and she was here beside me, dark-eyed and sweet. I
loved her. So often I said it--so sweetly she believed, and the habit
grew. “I love you,” I said, even when I knew that love was just like.
For often she was but as a small craft on the heaving sea of my passion,
the sea that ran to its flood-tide for you!

I told her repeatedly I loved her--and lied. Was it any the less a lie
that the spirit of romance was strong within me, and my heart-hunger
made me mad? I loved her in this fashion, say, because she was loving,
and my heart was full of love.

It did not come to me forcibly at the time that I was lying. I had come
into the habit of her, and the words did not stick in my throat, as
lies usually do. I did not despise myself. My duplicity I learned to
contemplate with equanimity and to forget, and so I lied ardently and
successfully. What a bad success it was!

For Doris loved me dearly, and cried over me a bit, now and then, I
suspect, and was beautiful and happy. I wondered, sometimes (forgetting
the reason that lay in my larger desire--you!), why I did not really
love her.

Such is my story, as well as I understand it.

She is very sweet, and I am very fond of her. I seek to extenuate
nothing; I write the crude facts as I know them. She has black hair and
eyes; she is very white and slender, with nestling ways. She is not
very learned or rich, but patrician and proud; all agree that she is
beautiful. She is debonair and sweet, and when I think of you she is
nothing to me--nothing!

But I tried to love her just in love’s despite; and she was happy in the
main, and I was half-resigned. I stifle when I think of that.

How pitiful it all was!

Often she leaned, touched my shoulder, and spoke with downcast eyes:--

“Do you really love me?”

“Very tenderly.”

“Passionately?”

“Passionately.”

“With all your heart?”

“With all my heart.”

“Forever?”

“Forever.”

She mistrusted me no more than the day mistrusts the sun.

And one night I sat late in my room, thinking. It was cold; the wild
wind arose, hissing in the stark trees. Out in the cold sky the stars
shone white and multitudinous. There came to me a wanton mood; I floated
with it, pensive and relaxed. I had no wish to change it, but desired
only to sit peacefully through the midnight until sleep should come, to
lightly conjecture and mildly reflect, to clasp my knees by the fire and
await the fortunes of the hour. Life had grown trivial.

And by degrees the thoughts of you came intensely and possessed me. That
was the night I wrote you that mad long letter of adoration and despair.

Ah, you were to me impossible! I had been half-resigned. But that night
passion reigned. It was my dearest tribute just to tell you of the love
I had for you. If it was madness, it was a sweet madness.

I thought when your letter would come I would sit for a while with it
in my hand, and dream the sweet, the terrible, the improbable,--before I
opened it to read your kind wording (I knew it would be kind) of what my
despair taught me to expect.

Then the wires shot stupefying joy.

“_Everything! Why did you wait so long? Come to me now--at once! I give
you all!_”

I had the message there at the street. I gazed blankly. Then with
realization came tumultuous sweetness that was pain. Doris, across the
way, stopped singing.

“Good news, Roger?”

“The best, and the worst!”

“Oh! Tell me about it, when I come.”

...Do your eyebrows slope, and your lips upcurl?

I have written it all out. When she comes (she is coming soon) I shall
tell her all, as I have told you. This is to be the blackest hour of my
life. I have made up my mind to tell her the truth. It is her right. But
my heart has so often failed me. If this is tenderness, why what a false
tenderness it is!

I have no more hopes of you now than I had when I wrote you. But I
belong to you, and will always belong to you, just for your once loving,
even though you despise me, now and forever.

I shall tell her frankly, extenuating nothing. _For I will have no more
lies_. On that I am resolved.

Anne, I do not truly live without you, and I crave the intensest living.
I think of you always as I saw you first--tall and fair, with the gold
across your temples, and the museful, wistful mouth with its serious
thinking silences and then its soft rapid speech, and the eyes, the blue
eyes, that had for me such exquisite language. You are repose--Heaven!
And I am in a hell of my own making, and, dearest, I could not help it!
Ah, I am pleading! I did not mean to plead.

Did you have a dream of me, as noble, say? Here am I, who love life
because of you, who love you more than that life or my hope of heaven.
But what to you is such a love?

She is coming soon, and I shall tell her. I say I shall have no more
deception. I am yours--yours! I dare not write the prayer that is in my
heart. I cannot say farewell. Remember, when you despise me worst, I am
yours!



II--FROM DORIS

The letter sent with this was found sealed and bearing your name and
address in the room where Roger died yesterday. He had spoken of you
so often that I came almost to know you. That is why I am writing
this note; you were his friend, and one so noble as he must have noble
friends. I thought for a moment I would ask you to let me read the
letter; but I could not bear to see it and know that it was his last,
and written to another.--The trouble was his heart. Will you be present?
I cannot write any more for crying.



III--THE TWO WOMEN

Said Doris: “You are just as I pictured you. May I call you just Anne?
How long they prayed! I did not know you would come. I could not think
who you were, standing beside his grave so beautiful and tearless.
I could not see well for weeping, and the wind was cold, and my head
ached. Oh, the wan face! The black clothes--I did not like the black.
I wanted to lie down there with him and be covered up. The clay was
so cold and wet. Oh, how cold my heart grew! Did you think they prayed
long? I was so cold!”

“I have never been told how he died,” said Anne.

“I entered the library, where he was waiting for me,” Doris replied. “It
was near twilight. He sat by the window, looking out. When I came in he
turned and his face was pale. The room was cold. The fire had gone out.
I never saw him pale before; I was frightened and cried out. He came
to re-assure me, and his face was so pale! He looked at me long and
anxiously--so anxiously. I did not understand this look, it was so
strange. It hurt me because I did not understand it. Now I know it was
physical suffering. He went back to the window and sank into his chair.
‘Are you not ill?’ I asked. He answered, ‘A little,’ and added, ‘It will
pass.’ But he did not speak at all or touch me, and when I stroked
his forehead he leaned suddenly forward, his face in his arms, on the
window-sill, and would not answer me. I ran out to tell them he was ill.
When the doctor came I was told he was dead. They gave me his letter to
send you, and tell you.”

“You do not wish,” said Anne, “to read the letter?”

Doris did not reply.

“It would make you less able to realize that he is--gone,” said Anne,
gently.

“Yes,” said Doris, “and then it was to you,--not me.”

The other’s face was suffused with tender pity. She spoke impulsively,
and yet with a timorous boldness, as one who ventures upon hazardous and
novel ways:--

“Doris, he loved you with all his heart!”

“He told you?”

“Yes.”

“He spoke of you so often, Anne. We shall always be friends.”

“Yes, always.”

“You are sure he loved me so?” The girl’s mouth tremored at the corners.
“He did not tell me often enough.”

“He loved you dearly,” said Anne.

“Ah, if you knew what sweet comfort you give! You are sure?--quite
sure?”

“He loved you with all his heart,” repeated Anne.

“I will go, Anne. I thank you so much! I think I can weep again, now.
For a while, goodbye. Give me both your hands, and kiss me.”



THE DEAD OAK

By Anna Vernon Dorsey

THE November day was drawing to a close. The shadows were deepening
in the pine forest that lay on one side of the sandy road. On the other
side, the corn-stalks stood in level rows against the yellow of the
sunset. My horse limped painfully, for he had cast a shoe several hours
since, and my hurried ride through a thinly inhabited part of lower
Maryland, with which I was unfamiliar, had so far brought me near no
blacksmith’s shop. Great, then, was my relief, on passing the wood, to
find a three-cross-roads, and a small house with a shed from which rang
the measured stroke of the anvil, while the square of the door was ruddy
with the forge fire.

After calling loudly and waiting in vain for a reply, I dismounted. Just
then the blacksmith came to the door,--a big, low-browed, long-haired
fellow, of few words. After examining my horse’s feet, he announced that
it would be necessary to replace not only the missing shoe, but also
three others.

As he proceeded slowly to work, I saw that there was before me the
prospect of a long wait which did not promise to be agreeable, for the
man was either surly or stupid, and gave out monosyllabic replies in
answer to my questions about the country. A dreary country it was, that
through which I was passing,--flat, sandy, impoverished, the virtue
having been tilled out of the soil for two hundred years. Now that the
old landed proprietors had departed to the cities, the majority of
the inhabitants were miserable poor whites and negroes, principally
fishermen and oystermen. Here and there one came across a relic of the
past,--an old manor-house, ruined or deserted, the property generally of
one man, a former overseer, who seemed to own most of the country.

And yet there was a charm of the past over this low-lying land,--a blaze
of glory in the west, reflected in the broad river that almost lapped
the roots of the huge pine forests that grew along its banks.

As I stood at the door of the smithy, looking eastward, I could see only
one exception to this sombre monotony of pines. On the roadside, in
the middle of a dense sweep of meadows, entirely isolated, stood a huge
oak-tree, the only one of its kind to be seen for miles around.

“That must be a pretty old tree,” I remarked.

“The Dead Oak? Many a hundred years old, I reckon.”

“It doesn’t look dead to me,” I answered; “it has a dense foliage.”

“That’s what they call it,--the Dead Oak. A man hung himself to it three
years ago,” said the smith, with some show of animation.

“One of the neighborhood?”

“No; a stranger round here. Nobody ever could find out where he come
from,--Washington likely. The niggers say it’s ha’nted.”

“How is that?” I asked, much interested.

“Don’t know; just ha’nted,” said the man gruffly, relapsing into silence
amid a fire of sparks.

Leaving my taciturn companion, I sauntered down to the road, my steps
turning intuitively in the direction of the old tree.

A chill wind came from the river, and a flight of crows with harsh
cries arose from its branches, as it stood, the central landmark in the
stretch of meadows. On one side of the road was a zigzag rail fence, and
on the topmost rail of this, under the tree, I seated myself. The lowest
branches almost touched my head, and the dry and dense foliage rustled
with every breeze.

Just beyond were two wooden posts, the entrance of a carriage-way
leading through a corn-field to what I had not noticed before, a large
house far back from the road. As I sat there, facing the afterglow of
the sunset, I became aware of the figure of an old negro coming slowly
through the corn-rows, through the gate,--a bent negro with bushy white
hair. Taking off his rabbit-skin cap, with a courtly bow he seated
himself on the roots of the tree.

For some moments we sat there in silence, the old man, with his hands
folded, gazing into the west.

“Good evening, uncle,” I ventured to remark. “Do you live near here?”

“Not far away,--up dat a-way,” waving his hand indefinitely in the
direction of the shadowy mansion.

“Have you lived here long?” I asked.

“Many an’ many a year,” he responded wearily. “Ebber sence I cum inter
de world. I belonged to Mars’ Brooke up yonder.”

“Then you must know about the man who hung himself here three years
ago?”

“He war n’t no man,” said the old darky sternly. “He wuz first quality,
my young gen’leman. I ought ter know, kase I buried him bofe times.”

At these words, suddenly a thrill ran over me, a sense of mystery,
something accursed brooding over this desolate spot.

“What do you mean?” I demanded. “Who was he?”

“Befo’ de Lord, boss, I don’ know, an’ nobody else does. It came about
dis ‘er’ way: De first time wuz years an’ years ago. Dar wuz good times
in de country den. De quality had n’t all gone away an’ sol’ de ole
places to oberseers an’ po’ white trash. Mars’ Harry Brooke wuz keepin’
bachelor’s hall up dar, an’ many’s de high ol’ times and junketings dey
had. Well, one night dey had a gran’ time, a-drinkin’ an’ a-carryin’ on,
he an’ de udder young gemlemens.’Bout day de party bruk up, kase de wuz
sober enuff den ter ride home. I wuz a young chap den, an’ I wuz runnin’
on in front ter open de gate, bar’footed, from de door, kase it war hot
weather den, like Injum summer. When I open’ de gate I scrich out ‘O
Gord!’ an’ I like ter fall ter de groun’, kase dar, wid his face all
white an’ orful ‘gainst de red leabes, a-lookin’ me right in de eyes,
wuz a man tied to der branch, wid a white han’chif aroun’ his neck. It
didn’t take me long ter jump fo’ward an’ take him down, an’ when de
gemlemen rid up dar he wuz a-lyin’ on de groun’ an’ me a-settin’ right
hyar on dis same stump wid his curly head on my knees. He war n’t quite
dead an’ his han’ kotch mine, an’ his beautiful brown eyes closed a
minute, an’ he gasped like an’ died. All de gemlemen dat came up an’
stan’ ‘roun’, dey say dey nebber see any one so handsom’ ez my young man
wuz, jes like one er de marble statues in de parlor, wid a eagle nose,
an’ a mouth many a young lady must ‘a’ kissed. But dose days wuz ober fur
him far ebber,--yes, mon.

“De quarest thing wuz, he didn’t hab nuthin’ on but a shirt, an’ dat wuz
de fines’ quality, real linin, embroidered, but no mark or sign on it
ter tell whar he cum from. Nobody ain’t nebber seed him befo’ in dis
part ob de kentry. Mars’ Harry sont all ober the kentry, clar up ter
Washin’ton an’ Baltimor’, but nobody cum fo’ward ter claim him, so he
wuz buried. De parson say he can’t be buried in de cons’crated groun’,
kus he mus’ ‘a’ kill hisself, so me an’ anudder man buried him in de
medder, under dis tree, right nigh whar you is a-settin’.”

The old man’s narrative ran on monotonously. It seemed as natural, as
much a part of the scene, as the croaking of the frogs in the deepening
twilight, in which it seemed that I could almost see that white face
with its aquiline nose and large brown eyes.

“Dat wuz long ago, long ago,” the old man resumed, “long ago. De War
come an’ went, an’ Mars’ Harry wuz killed, an’ de firs’ people lef’ de
kentry and de kentry wuz like new-made sod, dirt up’ards; but I nebber
fo’got my young gemleman, real quality, hangin’ hyar in dis tree, away
from all his people. Well, boss, many years parse, an’ Mars’ Harry’s
oberseer done bought de ole place up dar. One night ‘bout three years ago
dey gib one er dese hyar big abricultural suppers, an’ dey set dare all
night eatin’ an’ drinkin’ like dere betters used ter do. It wuz de same
time er year, but misty an’ damp an’ in de early mornin’ I wuz comin’
long de road an’ I see a crowd gaddered aroun’ de tree, jus’ like it wuz
dat udder mornin’ long time ago. When I come up, boss, for Gord! dar wuz
my young, beautiful gemleman a-lyin’ on de groun’, stiff an’ stark, in
his shirt, wid dat hankerchief ‘roun’ his neck. I wuz glad ter see him
ag’in, but he war n’t nearly alive, like he wuz befo’. De doctor wuz
dere, an’ he felt him an’ he say, ‘Dis man bin dead fo’ days. Who has
hang dis corpse to dis tree? Who is de man?’ Jes’ like dey say befo’,
‘Who is de man?’ Nobody remember’ him ‘cept’n’ me. De ole crowd dat wuz
dere befor’, de quality, dey all parsed ‘way, what wid de War an’ one
thing ur nudder, all gone but me. But I nebber said nuthin’ ter be
called ole crazy nigger,--no, mon. Dare he wuz, shore ‘nuff, de same
eagle nose an’ brown eyes an’ curls, de same leetle scratch, like de
razor done scratch him on de chin. I knowed him, an’ I cyarried him;
none er dem common folks ain’t fetched him. Dey abertised eberywhar,
but nobody ain’t answer.’ ’Case dey can’t. Dey war n’t nobody lef’ ter
answer ‘cept me,” and the old man gave an eerie chuckle. “De doctors an’
de lawyers talk it all ober, but dey cay n’t agree, an’ de parson, one
er dese hyar new kind, he say he kin be buried in de churchyard, but de
people make a fuss, kase he mought er bin a su’cide. So I helped bury
him ag’in. Seems like I wuz specially ‘pinted ter be his body-sarvant;
dis time it’s right outside de churchyard, an’ nobody don’t know it’s
him but me, kase dey all passed away.”

A pale, watery moon had emerged, the wind soughed among the pine-trees,
and away off an owl hooted.

“De nex’ time I’s gwine to bury him right in de churchyard. He gwine
ter come once mo’, an’ I ain’t gwine ter die till den, an’ dat time he’s
gwine ter be buried in de churchyard, and he won’t come no mo’, an’ den
I’ll pass away.”

A shout came through the dusk from the smithy:

“Say, mister, come; here’s your horse.” The other words were
indistinguishable. I arose and started up the road reluctantly, longing
to know more of the mystery. The old man again removed his cap, and so
I left him, motionless, seated in the shadows, facing the faint glow in
the west. My horse was ready when I reached the forge, the blacksmith
standing dark and massive in the doorway. “An old negro has just been
telling me a remarkable story,” I said after mounting; “that there have
been two suicides found hanging to the old oak, one long ago.”

“Can’t say,” answered the blacksmith, impassively and stolidly. “Ain’t
lived here very long myself. Always been called the ‘Dead Oak’ ever
since I knowed it.”

“Well, do you know an old negro with a bushy white head and beard, who
lives near the Brooke House? Who is he?”

“Might be old Sam, or Lige, or Cash. Lots of ‘em round here,” answered
the man, and that was all he would say.

I mounted and rode off rapidly, for there were still six hours of travel
before reaching my destination.

The moonlight was faint and chill, silvering the dry foliage of the old
tree. I drew rein under it, and peered vainly into the shadows for the
darker outlines of the old negro; he had disappeared, but it seemed to
me he was still present, sitting on the gnarled root, with the pallid
face of that young old corpse against his knee, waiting.

The owl hooted. A faint light shone from the dim mansion in the fields,
and I pressed on through a belt of low pines. When some distance on my
way I turned and looked back. The glow of the smithy was hidden. All the
low stretch of land was folded in twilight, and against the pale sky the
Dead Oak stood spectral and alone.



THE MAKING OF MONSIEUR LESCARBOT’S BALLAD

By William Holloway, Jr.

T was a stormy evening of March, 1611. All day snow had fallen in a
white whirlwind on Port Royal, winning one by one its points of vantage,
and submerging each in turn relentlessly, till now the tiny colony had
almost vanished in the drifts.

Signs of outline there were none. The great stone gateway at the
southeast, carven above with the fleur-de-lis, was dim and shapeless
even to the sentry in the guard-room beside it; the bastion to the
southwest, its four cannon quite buried, melted vaguely into the
darkness. Snow lay everywhere. The gabled houses were turned into white
misshapen monsters, and strange fantastic mounds stretched across
the Square. Even the flag of France in the centre, beneath which
the Seigneur of Port Royal stood each year to greet his vassals, had
suffered with the rest, the wind having wrapped it tightly about its
staff, and the interminable flakes blotted out its lilies.

It was ten by the clock, and the colonists long since abed, so that,
save for the blink of the sentry’s candle, a stranger passing by the
guard-room would have seen no sign of life. But that was only because a
giant drift hid the great hall of the seigneurie from sight, for there
a few of them were still awake and drinking deep, in honor of the coming
to Acadie of the Duc de Montpelier, cousin of the king.

Within the long wainscoted room, Poutrincourt, Seigneur of Port Royal,
sat musing before a huge log fire, with his thin white hands spread out
to the mellow heat. His face, delicately contoured and crossed by
many lines, gleamed with a ruddy hue while the flames roared up the
high-arched chimney; when they sank low again, it had the likeness of
an ashen mask against the blackness of his silken doublet. He was clad
entirely in black, even to his ruffles. His head was sunken on his
breast. And thus he sat gazing at the fire, his shadow on the wall
behind keeping time grotesquely to the leaping flames.

To his left Marc Lescarbot, the poet of the colony, listened across a
bowl of muscat to one of Imbert’s endless stories. He was tall and thin,
with dreamy gray eyes; there were girlish dimples on his cheeks.

Just now, however, his face was flushed and his fingers played
nervously about his girdle, for Imbert, after a fashion of his own, was
emphasizing the narrative with reckless flourishings of his naked sword.
But even then, with the point almost upon his breast, Monsieur Lescarbot
by no means lost his urbanity, for his smile, albeit a trifle anxious,
was still most wondrous sweet. As for Imbert, the story he was telling
had excited him beyond control. It was as if his wild sea-roving days
had returned. His black eyes flashed fiercely from out his red, scarred
face; his rubicund lips were protruded; his massive left hand was twined
in the coarse black hair that overhung his forehead. As the firelight
danced athwart him he seemed to Lescarbot, always fanciful, much like
the gods on the bowls of the Indian lobster-claw pipes, so broad was his
short, squat body and so flaming red his face.

On the right at a small table the Seigneur’s son, Biencourt, and the
Duc de Montpelier played at dice; the one eagerly, as if mindful of
his growing pile of pistoles, the other in listless unconcern. And this
difference the appearance of the two enhanced, for while Biencourt was
tall, blue-eyed, and smooth and fresh of face, the duc was short and
dark, with glittering black eyes and a pale, wearied countenance. And
whereas Biencourt was bravely dressed in doublet and hose of soft blue
satin, the duc wore a black velvet that harmonized sombrely with his
paleness and his listlessness. He had but that day reached Acadie from
France, yet the sight of the forest life about him, the fur-clad lackeys
and strange Indian relics, seemed scarcely to stir his pulses. Instead
he sat in silence by the table, carelessly toying with his white, ringed
hands.

The round ended and Biencourt swept in his gains. “Doubles?” he cried.

The duc nodded and pushed forward his stake.

“It was then the English came aboard us, Monsieur Lescarbot,” roared
Imbert, waving his sword, “and I leave you to judge how fierce the
fighting was with half our men already dead. The deck was a red
shambles, and in the midst stood Pierre Euston, blood from head to
heel.”

“It is worthy of a ballad,” murmured his hearer.

The duc shivered and drew nearer the fire. “Do ballads flourish in this
frozen land?” he asked, with a languid lift of his black eyebrows.

Poutrincourt started from his reverie. “Lescarbot is a famous poet,
monsieur le duc. For a ballad or love-song I know few to equal him.”

A blush reddened the poet’s dimpled cheeks. “The wilderness is full of
subjects,” said he, modestly.

The wind was rising higher and the stout oaken door rattled clamorously
to the white gusts. His highness the Duc de Montpelier shivered again
and looked about him somewhat curiously at the quaintly carven doors
and the bearskins and heads of deer that hung upon the dark wainscoted
walls.

“It was then I came up from the lower deck,” went on Imbert, “and side
by side Pierre Euston and I charged together. Ah! Pierre was a brave
fighter in those days, I warrant you, and together we swept the decks
before us. And droll enough work it was, with the wounded dogs of
English laying their swords about our heels as we passed.”

“It was scoundrelly work,” broke in Biencourt, balancing his dice-box
on his fingers. “Nothing would please me better than a meeting with this
droll gentleman, this Pierre Euston.”

Half seriously, half amusedly, the quondam pirate shrugged his great
shoulders. “Tush! I was but a lad,” he said in a tone of apology, “and I
took no share beyond the fighting.”

The dicing went on. The duc threw and lost again and impassively as ever
filled his silver flagon from the pitcher on the long oaken table behind
him. “To your next ballad, Monsieur Lescarbot,” he said, politely.
But the wine was scarce half way to his lips ere there came a strange
interruption. The door opened slowly from without, and a woman entered,
an infant in her arms.

In after years, when alone with Imbert in the ruined fort, that scene
came back to Biencourt with startling vividness. Once again he beheld
the long room dyed red in the glow of the fire; once more he saw them
as they started to their feet and stood staring blankly at the stranger.
And much cause was there to stare, for women in Port Royal this winter
there were none,--least of all grand ladies, such as each movement
showed this to be,--while beyond the fort lay naught but a savage,
unbroken wilderness. And Biencourt remembered standing thus while one
might slowly count ten.

The duc was the first to speak. “You are cold, madame,” he said softly.
“You must drink some wine.” And, flagon in hand, he approached her.

But the newcomer, who was blue-eyed and most marvellously fair of face,
waved him curtly back. “I have come to ask shelter for myself and babe,
from the lord of the seigneurie, monsieur, not to drink wine.” Then,
pausing as if for breath, she stood erect beside the door, slender and
lissome, a multitude of snow-flakes slowly melting in the red-gold of
her hair.

For a moment Poutrincourt was silent. Idly his thoughts travelled the
endless forest wastes of Acadie, snow-clad and inhospitable, where,
this winter of 1611, was no white settlement beside his own. He had even
passed up the great river to Quebec, where his friend Captain Samuel
Champlain had three years before planted the banner of the fleur-de-lis,
when with a start he became aware the woman’s eyes were fixed haughtily
upon him. Then, mindful of his duty, he stepped forward, bowing low, and
bade her welcome to his seigneurie of Port Royal, brushing the snow from
her long fur mantle with his own white hands. And in an instant more the
stranger was ensconced in a chair before the fire.

Biencourt and the duc resumed their gaming, Monsieur Lescarbot took
out his tablets preparatory to verse-making, and Imbert busied himself
mulling wine for the conclusion of the evening’s potations, which in
Port Royal were wont to be of the deepest. But no one ventured to mar
the hospitality of Port Royal with a question, and the newcomer proved
more taciturn than would have been expected from the laughing curves of
her lips, sitting moment after moment silent in the glow of the fire.

The wind still battered at the door and muttered angrily in the chimney,
but to Biencourt the room was filled with a new light--a strange
radiance that seemed to emanate from the stranger’s golden head or the
crimson kirtle which she wore. He forgot his game. He watched only her
drooping lashes, with a vague hope that soon she might raise them. And
as he watched, the pile of money before him lessened rapidly.

“I fear you bring me ill-luck, madame,” he cried at last, ruefully
smiling toward her. “These pistoles have a sorry trick of vanishing
since you came.”

The stranger raised her lashes, as he had hoped.

She smiled back responsively, and her eyes caught an amber light from
the leaping flames. “Would you turn me into the night again?” she asked,
jestingly, yet with a strange inflection in her voice as though speaking
to some one far away.

Biencourt shook his head. “This may bring me fortune,” he said, in eager
tones. And rising and striding to her side, he stooped down and made the
sign of the cross above the baby’s forehead--a simple superstition, but
evidently not to the newcomer’s liking, for she said with some hauteur,
“I, monsieur, am of the reformed faith,” and leaned back coldly in her
chair.

“Methinks, madame, you cannot have journeyed far,” broke in
Poutrincourt, who had been staring into the fire. “Your cloak had little
snow for much travel, and, besides, there was the babe.”

Madame’s face lost its haughtiness, and she smiled once more.

Poutrincourt rubbed his slender hands softly together. “All about us
is the endless forest, and lo! as if by magic you appear! Are you sure
there be no witchcraft in it?”

The stranger’s laugh rang through the hall, dying faintly amid the armor
in the far corner. “Mayhap I sailed hither in some sea-rover from the
Spanish lands, or perhaps”--and here she smiled demurely--“I hid myself
in yonder vessel that this day came from France. Perchance I dared the
drifts alone, or I may have bribed some of the red savages to carry me.
But where’er I came from, the sentry at the gate is not to blame. The
night is dark, and the snow has heaped an easy road from outside over
the bastion.”

“I am waiting, Monsieur Biencourt,” broke in the duc, with an impatient
glance at his opponent, who was still standing by the stranger lady’s
side. There was such anger in his tone that the other men, remembering
his former listlessness, glanced curiously at him.

His pale face was even paler than before; tiny drops of moisture
glittered on his forehead; one hand was clenched above his winnings, in
the other his dice-box trembled. “Does he love his pistoles after all?”
 thought the poet, pausing in his poem. The wine was mulled at last
and the goblets filled. The Seigneur of Port Royal drank slowly and
reflectively, in small sips, glancing alternately from the fair-haired
mother to her dark-eyed, cooing child. “I have thought about your
lodging, madame,” he said at last, tilting his goblet to and fro.

“Here you would have no rest, else I would give you my own apartments.
This evening we are something quieter than usual, but oftener the noise
of revelling disturbs the forest far into the night. The hall is full of
men in leathern hunting suits, the red savages sit smoking by the fire,
there is gaming and wine-drinking, and in the intervals we sing the
songs of France. But without the fort, a half-mile beyond the gate,
are two disused huts. One of these I give you to inhabit. And that you
suffer insult from none, a protector shall go with you, who shall answer
for your honor with his own. There be two huts, and each shall have one.
But this night you will lodge here.”

The stranger leaned forward. Her slender fingers touched his arm. “You
have forgotten to name the one who is to guard me,” she said hastily, a
curious thrill vibrating through her voice.

The Seigneur pointed at Biencourt, and her face, which had seemed
strained and eager, relaxed again. “We shall be brave allies, shall we
not?” she cried, turning her blue eyes toward him. Biencourt laughed.
“None better,” he responded in great good-humor.

The storm was growing fiercer as the night went on. The door rattled
more noisily, and the flames in the great chimney waved to and fro in
the sudden gusts. The space on the other side of the table, feebly lit
by two candles in brazen candlesticks, became a battleground of shadows
from the group before the fire. The stranger lady, seeming not to mind
the storm, looked dreamily about her at the strange antlers on the
walls, and at the motto of the lords of Port Royal, carved above the
oaken mantel, shielding her baby’s face the while from the glare of the
flames. Presently her eyes met Biencourt’s.

“You are brave; is it not so?” she asked, with a laugh and a toss of her
head that spread her golden hair in sunshine over her shoulders.

Imbert answered in his place. “Very brave, and a fine swordsman!” cried
the old pirate, while his black eyes flashed. “All Port Royal knows the
young admiral and his famous wrist-play.”

“Admiral!” Again the blue eyes looked into his, and again Biencourt had
the same strange feeling, as if the speaker’s thoughts were far away,
and she were merely toying with the words.

“Aye!” went on Imbert, coming nearer, and laying his monstrous hands
upon the mantel, “the late King Henry made him an admiral for these
waters months ere his martyrdom, and since then he has swept the
freebooters from the coast.”

His highness the Duc de Montpelier leaned lazily backward in his chair,
raising his black eyebrows. “So my good cousin, Henry of Navarre,
chose for his admirals beardless boys!” he said very softly and very
languidly.

There was an instant hush throughout the room, in which the clatter
of the door rose almost to a scream. Imbert drew in his breath with
a sharp, hissing sound; the poet looked up from his tablets, and
Poutrincourt from the fire. These latter were just in time to see
Biencourt leap to his feet and draw his sword, and almost before they
understood the cause the fight had begun.

The first of the encounter was much in the duc’s favor. He fenced so
strongly behind a certain affectation of disdain, and his thrusts
came so subtly home, that, ere five minutes had passed, Biencourt was
bleeding from a wound in his left shoulder. The duc lowered his sword
and surveyed his opponent. “Are you satisfied, monsieur?” he asked
placidly.

“Not yet!” cried Biencourt, angrily.

Imbert drew near and examined the wound. “A scratch!” he called,
contemptuously. Then, with a warning look, he lounged back to his
position by the mantel. The room was very still as the two faced each
other again,--the duc, dark and pale; Biencourt, with a crimson flush
upon his cheeks.

There was the same writhing of swords, the same chilly music of steel,
and once again the duellists swayed to and fro. Then for the second time
the duc’s sword found its mark; this time not far below the heart.

Biencourt leaned back, ashen white, upon Lescarbot’s shoulder. His blood
flowed fast and his eyes were closed as if in pain. The duc himself
approached and surveyed him, leaning the while a trifle wearily upon his
sword, for the last bout had been a fierce one.

“It was a brave fight,” he said slowly.

At the sound of his voice Biencourt’s blue eyes opened. “Can you stay
the bleeding?” he asked huskily of Imbert, who with the deftness of an
old campaigner was binding a mass of soft cloths about the wound.

Imbert nodded.

“Then a moment more and I am ready.”

“But, monsieur,” the duc courteously interposed, “your wound is deep and
you have already done enough for honor. Believe me you have this night
shown a swordsmanship I never saw before--I who have met and conquered
every _maître d’armes_ in France. It was but by using all my skill I
touched you.”

But with the duc’s insult still rankling at his heart Biencourt was in
no mood for fine speeches. “I can try once more,” he answered rather
grimly, “and I warn you to be on your guard. Let no gleam of the
stranger’s golden hair tempt you from your watchfulness, or ill may well
betide you.”

At this the duc’s pale face flushed and he shook his head in fiercest
anger. But he spoke no word. Then the two faced each other again.

Poutrincourt’s oval face was gray and haggard; Lescarbot looked on half
eagerly, half sullenly; Imbert, his hands twined in his shaggy black
hair, alone was imperturbable. And at one side, with head averted, the
stranger leaned idly in her chair, smoothing her baby’s forehead with
her hand.

This time there was no respite. The two pressed each other fiercely,
their swords flashing in the candlelight like twin twining snakes. To
and fro they swayed; a dozen times each saved his life as by a miracle;
their breath came in quick and quicker gasps, and still they fought on.
The duc’s face was now fiery red with passion, and it was evident no
thought of mercy lingered in his mind. And for the first time he became
uncertain of the result, for Biencourt was fighting with a dogged
persistence that boded ill. Try as he would, his thrusts were parried so
that presently he began half doubtfully to wonder if at last he had met
his equal. And while these thoughts lingered in his mind, giving to his
wounded adversary’s face a look of pale foreboding, the infant in the
stranger’s arms began crying shrilly. For an instant the duc glanced
hastily toward the chair in which she sat, his guard failed, and
Biencourt, fainting from loss of blood, ran him through the chest.

It was months ere Biencourt and the Duc de Montpelier met again. Then
one June afternoon, when Acadie lay in a yellow swoon, the duc appeared
before the two solitary huts, leaning heavily on a stick.

“We shall not quarrel again, I hope,” he said gayly, bowing to
Biencourt, who was lounging in the shadow of the forest. “Of a truth I
have no mind to stay longer in bed. And I have come, monsieur, both to
make amends for my discourtesy on the evening of our meeting, and to beg
the honor of your friendship.”

And having thus spoken, he bowed low again and waited, a short yet
stately figure set against a background of deep green spruce. But his
face, as Biencourt sprang forward to grasp his hand, showed haggard and
drawn as if through pain.

This was the beginning of a strange friendship. Lescarbot had turned
the duel into a ballad of Homeric proportions, variegated here and there
with choice allusions to the “listless lady by the fire.” This the two
read together, seated side by side on a rustic seat Imbert had arranged
in the shadow--all except the ending, which the poet, despite his skill,
had not yet been able to fashion to his mind. Beneath them the bay
sparkled in the sunshine; to the right lay the fort, with its gleaming
cannon; in the distance a purple mountain ridge reared itself softly
against the sky. Of this scene the duc seemed never to weary. Morning
after morning he lounged for hours on the rustic seat, idly drinking in
its beauty. It was at the second of these meetings he asked Bien-court
about his charge.

“You have no trouble with these Port Royal gallants?” he queried.

Biencourt shook his head.

“And how does madame--Manette, the Seigneur told me was her name--how
does madame relish her forest life?”

“She is thinner and her cheeks are pale. Since her child died, I fear
she grieves.”

For a time the duc sat silent, carelessly digging with his scabbard
in the moist, black earth. “One may not see her?” he said at last,
doubtfully.

“Why not? Without doubt you will respect her honor, and she seems
lonely.”

On the duc’s lips a faint smile trembled. For a moment he seemed about
to laugh. But he only repeated, “So she seems lonely.”

Biencourt rose and knocked at the door of the adjoining hut. “Does
madame please to walk?” he called.

There was a reply from within, inaudible to the duc’s ears, and in
another moment the stranger lady, whose plain name of Madame Manette ill
consorted with her stately air, appeared equipped for walking. The duc
sauntered near.

“Madame Manette,” said Biencourt, “I have the honor to present to your
notice his highness Monsieur le Duc de Montpelier.”

The duc’s plumed hat swept the earth in greeting. “Methinks the climate
suits us strangers ill,” he said, gayly. “From your face it steals the
roses; me it hinders too long of recovery.”

Madame Manette shrugged her fine shoulders. “Are you in danger?” she
asked politely. The subject was evidently uninteresting.

The duc shook his head and smiled. His black eyes were full of a strange
light, and his lips quivered so that Biencourt, watching him, feared he
might be in danger of overtaxing his new-found strength. Then the three
set out through the forest, loitering along quaint footpaths brown with
fallen pine needles, or stooping to gather wild flowers in the shelter
of anciently bearded trees, where was naught but primeval stillness.

The walk that day, however, was a short one, for Madame Manette was
weary, so that presently they found themselves again before the log hut,
with its thatched roof and mossy walls. Vines of Imbert’s planting were
beginning to twine about the doorway, and in the air floated the dreamy
scent of bursting pine buds. A half mile in the distance the four cannon
on the bastion of Port Royal flashed brightly in the sunshine, and the
flag of France flaunted civilization and progress in the face of the
hoary forest; in a neighboring glade the conical wigwams of an Indian
camp stood brown and lonely in the shadow.

At the doorway Madame Manette paused a moment before saying adieu; and
as she leaned listlessly against the door, with her eyes fixed on the
distant fort, the duc asked a question.

“Your baby!” he cried, abruptly; “where may its grave be?”

Madame Manette’s blue eyes were scanning the great stone gateway, and
for a moment it seemed she had not heard. Then, without turning her
head, she said slowly: “It is buried where you stand. Your feet,
monsieur, are above its heart.”

Her questioner moved hastily aside, a deep pallor on his cheeks, and
Madame Manette went on calmly: “It was my own choice it should lie
there; and my feet, passing over it each day, do but make it rest the
sweeter.” Then, bowing slightly, she retired within.

Next day the duc joined in the walk again, and on many succeeding days,
which was very natural, since he and Biencourt were constantly together.
Indeed, now that he had shaken off his listlessness, he had become a
most fascinating companion. To Biencourt he talked for hours of the
court and its affairs; Imbert he held under a respectful spell with
stories of his campaigns in the frozen north, where men perished by
squadrons in the snowstorms. But his fascinations could hardly be said
to extend to Madame Manette, who treated him throughout with a certain
chilling disdain. His remarks she answered in monosyllables; the flowers
he gave her she languidly let fall ere five minutes had passed. But,
without a sign of discomfiture, he next day gathered more and talked
on, unconcerned. Very frequently, too, he made excuses to speak to her
alone, when the morning stroll was ended, and before she had entered the
hut. On these occasions, which generally ended in her abrupt withdrawal,
he betrayed a curious dread of stepping upon the unmarked grave,
standing always much to one side.

The summer waxed and waned upon the hillside, dying day by day in
blood-red spots among the hardwood trees, and still Madame Manette
lingered in Acadie. Her seclusion was more rigid than before; it might
be that she was thinner, but that was all. At intervals, as vessels left
for France, the Seigneur called to offer her passage home, which each
time she smilingly refused, accompanying her refusal, however, with such
liberal gifts to the colony’s poor as sent Poutrincourt away in a maze
of wonder. She took pleasure in her seclusion, she told Biencourt one
day, when they were for an instant alone, and in their daily ramblings
through the forest. It had been a strange experience, this summer on the
very skirt of savagery, and her baby’s grave had bound her to the place.
But with the first snow she would return to France. And so time went on.

But after many mornings, there at length chanced one when Madame Manette
was indisposed, and there was no walking. Next day the same thing
happened, to the evident annoyance of the duc, who paced for hours
up and down before her door. On the succeeding morning, however, she
appeared again, looking very white and frail. She declined to walk, on
account of weariness, and spent an hour idly in the rustic chair.

“You are weak, madame,” cried Biencourt, eagerly, as they walked back to
her hut. “You need aid. Indeed, you seem to grow ever frailer and more
weary.”

Madame Manette turned on the threshold of her domains and surveyed her
two escorts with deliberation. There was a faint shadowy smile upon her
lips, and her marvellous hair lay in a golden blaze against the white
hollow of her cheeks. “He dreams--does he not?” she asked, addressing
the duc.

“I fear his dreams are true.” And Biencourt, glancing at him, thought he
had never looked so ghastly since his wound. His lips were aquiver and
his words came from them with a strange tremor.

But Madame Manette shook her head. “You are both over anxious,” she said
lightly, though even as she spoke her voice faltered wearily. Then, with
a bow and a glance at some wild-fowl flying near, she closed the door
behind her, leaving the two gazing at each other with a mute, fearful
questioning.

That night Biencourt chanced to be favored by a visit from Lescarbot.
The poet had been wandering about the forest, vainly striving to fashion
an ending to his famous ballad, and was consequently in a state of great
depression. His figure drooped; his gray eyes stared moodily before him.
And thus for hours he sat, while the moon rose above the trees and paled
the solitary candle with her rays.

“There will never be an end,” he cried at last, rising pettishly and
flinging the door open wide. “For months have I thought upon it--the
wild storm, the dicing, the newcomer, and the duel--and each time I reel
back, baffled like a child at the entrance of a gloomy forest. For who
can paint the motive that daily forms itself beneath his gaze? And here
is that which came perhaps from far.”

Monsieur Lescarbot’s troubled face relaxed. His analysis evidently
pleased him well, for he stepped briskly into the moonlight flung across
the doorway.

Biencourt made no answer. He was busy with a long epistle, which a
vessel on the morrow would carry to a certain black-eyed maid of honor
at the court of France, and scarcely heeded what the poet said.

“From far! Who knows how far?” Lescar-bot went on dreamily. “Perchance
from the royal”--here he paused and crossed himself hastily, as heavy
footsteps sounded near by. They came nearer still, and the poet drew in
from the doorway, falling upon his knees in prayer. Biencourt sprang in
wonder to his feet, and there, in the brilliant moonlight, a few feet
from the hut, saw what had so transfigured his companion, a man bending
laboriously beneath a heavy load--a load with lifeless limbs, and loose
hair waving in the night wind. Then he knew, as the poet had known, it
was the Duc de Montpelier with the dead form of Madame Manette upon his
shoulders.

A moment only the duc paused before he staggered across the threshold,
and, shivering violently, laid the body on the floor. Yet in that moment
the thought of his broken trust stung Biencourt like a lash, and half
unconsciously his sword flashed in the moonlight. But ere he could frame
the question surging to his lips, it was answered.

The duc sank down beside the body, his left hand resting on the ashen
face. “You will seek to know the meaning of the riddle,” he said
mechanically, without lifting his eyes from off her rigid form. “It is
very simple. She was my wife. Nay, do not start, monsieur”--as Biencourt
made a gesture of amazement. “It is as I say, and this is the body of
Madame la Duchesse de Montpelier, wife of a prince of the blood, and--a
Huguenot. And know you not”--and here the duc spoke lower and his words
came slowly, while he made the sign of the cross--“know you not the Holy
Father can disannul such marriages if it be the interest of the Truth?
And among all the Huguenots of France--fierce and bitter as they have
been and are--is there none more relentless than the comte, her father.”

For an hour the duc spoke no word more. With his arms tightly clasped
about his wife’s stiffening form, he crouched beside her on the floor.
And at the table near by the two unwilling spectators sat watching.

Finally the duc spoke again, still with the same mechanical tone and
with his eyes still fastened on her face. “She came to Acadie without
my knowledge, by the connivance of some of her own faith at Rochelle, as
she herself told me, hiring a swift trading bark that dogged our course
all the way, and landed her in the darkness below the fort. And ever
since our meeting here has she been most bitter to me. She gave me no
reproaches. She was too proud, if you understand, but each morning her
eyes rested scornfully on me, as we left her at the door. Often, too, in
the evenings, would I wander about her hut, watching her shadow pass to
and fro across the window. Once I tapped lightly at the door, giving a
secret signal we had often idly used in France, and she bade me depart
so sternly I never ventured signal more. To-night it chanced I was
standing not far from the window, when suddenly I heard her fall. In an
instant I was within, but Manette was already dead. And now she is dead,
monsieur,” went on the duc, his eyes glittering feverishly as he tossed
the golden hair caressingly to and fro, “now she is dead, she is mine
again. And I will bury her this night in a secret place I last week
learned of, so that alien faces shall look on her no more, and where she
shall slumber by the dust of dead Indian chiefs, and near the noise of
a rushing stream. For it was by a brawling brook on her father’s estate
that we first met, and ever she loved its noises well.”

The rest of the night to Biencourt was always like a half-forgotten
dream. Together he remembered they had borne the icy body the distance
of a hundred yards, when, wearied from their recent wounds, he and the
duc had come perforce to a sudden stop. It was then he had left the
duc and Lescarbot with their burden, and, running to the fort, brought
Imbert, yawning, to their aid. After that the journey was easy, for
Imbert poised Madame Manette’s body on his giant shoulders, easily as a
mother might raise her child, and mile after mile bore it on through the
waving forest. Port Royal, its bastion and palisades swimming in yellow
moonlight, was left behind; the forest closed over them, dark and
sullen, and still they pressed on. The duc went first, leading the way
without hesitation, for the path was well marked, though in shadow, and
even to a stranger impossible to miss. And by this the others knew they
were going to the ancient sepulchre of the Indian chiefs--a place of
mysteries, where strange influences had their hiding-places.

The gray light of dawn was filtering coldly into the rocky well of
sepulchre when they arrived. On all sides were niches in the walls,
each niche a grave; and, drowning all voices in a hoarse clamor, a tiny
stream fell thirty feet adown the rock into a murky pool below, whence a
chasm in the cliff led it downward to the sea.

It was here they buried Madame Manette, erstwhile Duchesse de
Montpelier, the duc praying long and fervently. And that none might look
upon her face again, Imbert, going higher up the stream, changed its
course by means of massive rocks, so that now and forever that brawling
stream flows down across her grave. And here, with the vagrant spray
falling thickly upon their faces, did the duc bind them by a fearful
oath to guard his secret well from all save Poutrincourt.

Then, while the sun rose, they went slowly back to Port Royal through
the lightening forest. The duc staggered weakly; his eyes were sunken;
there was a grayness upon his face much like the grayness of the dead
face he had looked at so long. Nor did he speak until the great gate of
the fort loomed in sight, when, rousing himself as if from slumber, he
said musingly, “It is the ending of--a ballad, Monsieur Lescarbot.”



ON THE BRINK

By Edwin Lefevre



I

SUDDENLY it dawned upon them that they loved one another. They had been
talking about mind-reading, and he had looked long and steadily into
her eyes when she had challenged him to read her thoughts. They realized
simultaneously what had happened. She had known that she loved him, and
he, that he loved her. But each had sought to keep that knowledge from
the other. Now they could hide it no longer.

They remained silent for a long time, avoiding each other’s gaze. At
last their eyes met.

He said, “Well?” His voice expressed nothing; in his eyes there was
sorrow and--hope!

She shook her head, and he turned away his eyes; there was
disappointment in them that he would not show. Then she said, very
quietly, “You have read my thoughts?”

“Yes,” he said, still without looking at her; “and you--”

“I have read yours.”

Tears were in her eyes. If his, too, were wet, she could not see, for
he was looking fixedly at a little pebble at her feet. At last he said,
passionately, “Oh, why did I meet you! Why should I suffer so?”

“And I?” she said. “Is it not worse for me? Is not my sin greater,
and therefore my punishment heavier, than yours? Oh,”--in answer to an
impatient gesture of denial,--“you will meet some woman whom it will not
be a sin to love, and you will--”

“You know I will not,” he interrupted.

“Yes, you will,” she said, very gently; “and then--”

He raised his head and gazed steadily at her. Then he said,
challengingly, “You wish me to love another?”

She looked away from him and was silent. Gradually there crept into his
eyes a look of hope; and hope was slowly turning into exultation when
she spoke, so softly that he barely could hear her, “Yes.”

Then he said, altogether too calmly, in too commonplace a manner, “Oh,
very well, since you wish it--”

And she said, very firmly, “I wish it!”

Slowly they returned to the house. The sun was setting, and there was
gold and nacre and glowing blood in the sky. In the garden the wind
stirred the leaves gently, and there was sorrow in their song.

Her husband awaited them. “Is n’t it a beautiful sunset?” he said to
them from the piazza. “I suppose you’ve been looking at it. You might
write a sonnet about it, my boy.”

She went up to the gray-haired man and kissed him on the lips, and
leaned against him, until he wound his arm about her waist, and she
rested her head on his shoulder caressingly; and then she looked
defiantly at the young man, who had drawn near.

The young man’s hands closed tightly, and in his eyes there was
disappointment and anger and some contempt. “Yes, John, I believe I
_could_ write a few elegies on the death of this Sun, who has shed his
blood in his fight with Night, and has spattered it all over the sky, so
that the angels will have to wash it off with their tears. Sunsets are
my forte, anyway--”

“I have never seen any of your verses,” she said.

“Then you may congratulate yourself upon your lucky escape.”

The gray-haired man smiled good-naturedly and patted her cheek; and she
held it up to be kissed, and nestled closer to him. Then she looked at
the young man, and in her eyes there was still defiance, and, though she
would not have shown it, some interest. She said, “I have heard so much
about them that I should like to read them.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“You are reckless.” And the bantering tone did not hide from her the
significance that lay behind his words.

“You must show some of them to her,” said the gray-haired man to him.

“All right. I’ll hunt them up, some time, and send them to you,” said
the young man to her.

“Have n’t you any here?” she asked.

“Yes,” he replied; “but they are all love songs, and therefore not worth
the reading.”

“Indeed!” she said. The gray-haired man patted her cheek indulgently.
This time she did not upturn her face for a kiss. And in her voice there
was an unnecessary indifference as she said to the young man, “Will you
let me read them to-night?”

“Oh, no,” he replied, laughingly, though his eyes were serious.

“Why not?” she persisted.

“In the first place, because they are not worth anything; and then you
might get an impression that I really meant what I wrote, and that I am
deeply in love with some one.”

“And you are not in love?” There was a challenge in her voice. The
gray-haired man smiled at her girlish, artless curiosity.

“Certainly not!” the young man said decidedly.

“But were you in love when you wrote them?”

“I really don’t know,” he answered. “Perhaps I was.”

“Well, _I_ am,” she said, looking at him steadily. And when his eyes had
shown astonishment and had begun to shine with irrepressible hope, she
continued: “Indeed I am,--with my own dearest husband, who is so good to
me. Am I not, darling?” And she entwined her arms about the gray-haired
man’s neck and kissed him on the lips twice. And the gray-haired man
laughed and looked pleased.

The young man’s face was rigid and very pale. In the dusk they could not
see that his lips were twitching. But she had grown strangely quiet.

A great stillness had fallen upon the world. The evening star was
shining very brightly now, and in the east a little lone star was
blinking tremulously.

Presently she said, “I am afraid,” and shivered.

The gray-haired man drew her closer to him, kissed her, and said:
“Afraid of what, little coward? But come, it is time to go in, my
child.”

The young man’s thoughts had been many during the brief spell of silence
that had preceded her words, and now he said: “Yes, _little sister_, you
ought to go in now.”

The gray-haired man laughed good-naturedly at this jest of his
young brother’s. But she drew a quick breath and went into the house
hurriedly.



II

The gray-haired man was nodding over his newspaper in the library. She
had just ceased to hold the latest novel upside down in her hands. She
hesitated for a moment; then she arose, saying: “It is so warm here; I
am going on the piazza.”

The gray-haired man started. “What ‘s that, my dear?” he asked,
shamefacedly. He feared that she might think he had been asleep. They
had been married but four months.

“I am going to sit on the piazza; it’s cooler,” she said.

“Is Dick there?”

“Yes.”

“All right, then. But don’t stay too long; the night air is not good for
you.” It certainly was not good for him, so he remained in the library
nodding over his newspaper.

She went to the piazza. Sitting on the veranda-rail, the young man was
smoking. At the sound of her steps he started up eagerly; but when she
was near him, his eyes showed nothing, his face was calm.

“A beautiful night, is n’t it?” said she.

“Yes,” he acquiesced. He stifled a yawn ostentatiously. Then, as though
the thought had just struck him, “Shall I fetch you a chair?”

“Oh, no, thanks; I am going upstairs shortly,” she said, with
indifference.

“Shall I fetch you a chair?” This in another tone.

“Yes,” she answered.

He did so, and then resumed his seat on the veranda and smoked in
silence.

Overhead, the sky was as molten sapphire and the stars seemed more
numerous than ever before, and brighter and nearer to the earth.

“Lovely, is n’t it?” she said at last.

“What is?”

“The sky, of course.”

“Yes.”

After a silence she said: “I’ve never seen so many stars before; have
you?”

“Yes,” he said, slowly, “there was one more last night,--mine!”

“Yours?”

“Yes.”

There was another pause,--a long one. She was looking at a little star
that was shining very faintly low in the sky. Finally she said, softly,
“Show me your verses.”

“I cannot,” he said, almost in a whisper.

“Why not?” She avoided his gaze.

“You know very well,” he answered.

“But if I ask you as a great favor--”

“I should still refuse,” he said, wearily.

“You are very rude.”

“And you are very cruel,” he returned, monotonously.

“But not so cruel as you,--to arouse a woman’s curiosity, and then to
refuse, absolutely, to gratify it!”

“Oh, so it is merely curiosity?” His voice trembled slightly.

She hesitated; her foot was tapping on the ground nervously. Then, as
if she had weighed the consequences, she said: “Of course, merely
curiosity.”

“Then you lied this afternoon, and you are only a coquette? I might have
known it!” He spoke with difficulty for his teeth were clinched tightly.

“How dare you speak to me so?” she said, angrily.

And then he answered in a low voice, as if fearful of being overheard:
“And how dare you forget that you are my brother’s wife?”

She gave a half-smothered cry of pain, as though he had struck her. Then
she buried her head in her hands and sobbed softly.

“Don’t!--Please don’t--Oh, don’t--Gladys--” he said. It was the first
time he had called her thus, by name, and she said, between her sobs:
“Oh, I am so unhappy, so unhappy!”

She raised her head and looked at him. Her eyes were filled with tears.
He went toward her hesitatingly. By her side he paused; his hands were
clinched and held close to his face. He said hoarsely: “Don’t. Don’t
make--me--forget--” He drew nearer; she held up her arms as if to ward
off a blow, and then the gray-haired man’s voice called out sleepily
from a window on the other side of the cottage: “Gladys! Dick!”

“Yes?” said the young man.

“You had better come in now.”

“Yes. Coming.”



III

At breakfast the next morning the young man said: “I am going back to
the city this morning, John.”

“Are you? When will you return?” said the gray-haired man. He did not
think his honeymoon had waned yet; but it never shines very brightly on
three people at once, and--

“I don’t know,” answered the young man. “I shall go to Jack Livingston’s
first; I promised to spend a week or two with him. And then I think I’ll
go to Maine. I am told the fishing is exceptionally good this season.”

She said nothing. The gray-haired man began to talk about the anxious
cares of a floriculturist.

After breakfast she disappeared. The gray-haired man said good-bye to
his younger brother, to whom he had been as a father, and went out to
consult with his head gardener about a new variety of orchids which he
had just received from the Isthmus of Panama.

All that morning the young man wondered if she would not bid him
farewell. At last the groom came to tell him that the cart awaited him.

He was in the hallway, deliberating whether he should seek her, when
she came down the stairs slowly. Her face wore a look it had never known
before. Occasionally it is seen on some women when they wear the widow’s
garb for the first time,--a blending of sorrow and yearning, and,
withal, resignation. She halted at the foot of the stairs, her
hand resting upon the carved post. “So you are going?” she said,
monotonously.

“Yes.” His voice was low.

“For a long time?”

“Yes.” He dared not look at her.

“It is for the best,” she said. He answered nothing.

The groom came to the door and said: “I beg your pardon, sir, but the
train is due now, sir.”

“Very well, I’m coming.”

She gave two sharp little indrawn gasps. Then, speaking very quickly,
she said: “Wear this. My mother gave it to me when I was confirmed. When
she died I took it off because it reminded me of her and it made me cry.
It is sacred to me. It is all I can give you. I am sure she would not
blame me--” She paused and looked at him questioningly.

“No,” he answered, reverently.

“Take it!” She held a little ring, a plain gold band, toward him, and he
took it and with some difficulty placed it on his little finger.

“Good-bye!” she said.

He looked at her imploringly. His lips dared not utter what his eyes
told so plainly. It was a request, nothing more, but she shook her head.

“Good-bye,” she repeated, extending her hand.

He took it and held it tightly.

“Good-bye,” he said. Her hand remained in his. She could not withdraw it
and there were tears in her eyes as she said, gently, for the last time:
“Good-bye.”

“Good-bye,” he said again. He bent over to kiss her hand, but she drew
it back quickly. Then she went up the stairs slowly.

He had resolved not to look back, but before the little cart had gone
two hundred yards he turned his head. There was no one on the piazza,
and her windows being curtained he could not tell whether she was
looking at him from her room. He gazed long towards the little cottage.
Then, as he heard the whistle of the approaching train, he turned his
eyes to the front, and his face took on a calm, resolute look.



A WOMAN’S LIFE

By Anthony Leland

HE is dead!”

“Oh! Miss ‘Lizbeth! and you alone with him?”

“Yes, I was alone with him.”

She said this in a manner which seemed to imply that there was nothing
strange in the fact that she was alone with him. She was always alone
with him, was she not? Was it necessary that she open the doors and call
them all in because he was dying?

They passed from the narrow hall into the front room with its
green-paper window-shades, its worn carpet and meagre furniture. His
bed had been moved down from the floor above when his last illness had
seized him, and here it had remained, a black walnut bedstead, with
towering head-board, which shut out the light from one of the two
windows in the room. This bedstead had been one of his few, his very
few, extravagances in years gone by, and in its dark shadow he lay now
rigid. He had been a stern, grizzled man in life, but the sternness then
had been as very softness compared with the hard, cold outline of the
lace now upon the pillow in the green light of the lowered window-shade.

They moved about the room on tip-toe, speaking in the hissing whispers
considered appropriate by them in the presence of death.

“When did it happen?” some one asked.

“Half-hour ago.”

“Had n’t I better call the doctor or the minister?”

“I don’t see what good they’d be.”

Another woman crept in silently, a shawl huddled about her head.

“I jest heard,” she whispered.

They waited in silence for her to go on. She was the woman of the
village who always officiated at the “laying out” of their dead. The
reason for this no one had ever sought. Possibly the right was hers
because she so enjoyed the grewsome privilege. At least she clung to it
tenaciously.

“Now, Miss ‘Lizbeth, you jest go upstairs and I’ll tend to things,” she
said, while the other women awaited her commands, half resenting
her cool assumption of control, but with a full consciousness of her
capability in “tending” to such “things.”

The bare little church, with its white walls and staring windows, its
stiff pine pulpit painted a dingy yellow, with the minister’s green
upholstered chair behind it, was well-filled the day of the funeral. A
“burying” was not a thing to miss without grave cause. There were old
men and old women in the congregation who had not missed a funeral
within ten miles of them for fifty years. They sat solemnly waiting for
the minister to begin the services, taking close notice of the coffin
and calculating its cost. Not a difficult problem for them with their
long experience. They also noted closely the appearance of the one
mourner who sat directly in front of the pulpit, alone save for the
presence in her pew of the woman who had come to her huddled under a
shawl. This strange woman always sat with the mourners as though she
felt a claim upon the bodies of the dead until their final surrender to
mother earth. But the dead man’s daughter sat away from her companion
quite at the farthest end of the seat, as if she would be as much apart
from them all in her present loneliness as she had been before. It was
fifteen years since she had sat with them in the church, and they looked
at her now with curiosity. A slight little woman, with tired eyes and
dull brown hair streaked with gray!

The minister arose and folded upon the open Bible his lean hands with
their great veins and yellow joints. He prayed long and laboriously,
his voice rising from a doleful sing-song drawl into a shout and then
sinking into a whisper. They wagged their heads knowingly in the pews
and whispered to one another that it was a “pow’ful effort.” Toward the
close of his prayer many eyes were turned expectantly toward the woman
who sat alone. The minister was calling loudly for “the lost sheep who
is not with us safe in the shelta’ of Zion’s walls. O Lord!” he wailed,
“make yoh wahnin’ plain to her onseein’ eyes that she may seek safety
from the wrath to come.” If the woman heard or understood his words no
acknowledgment of that fact touched her thin face. She sat with folded
hands, her eyes upon the narrow front of the box like pulpit. Then the
minister began his sermon. From the earliest dawn of the dead man’s
life, through his childhood, youth, and manhood unto the last moment
of his old age the speaker journeyed, going unctuously over the dreary
details of the meagre, common history. They all knew it well enough,
but they listened greedily, jealously fearful that the speaker might
overlook a single incident in the man’s dull story. When he had
exhausted every period of his subject’s life, the minister began the
apotheosis of the man. His goodness, his charity, his uprightness, and,
above all, his “tireless labors in the vineyard of the Lord” were dwelt
upon. He had in truth been cruel and hard and mean. They all knew this,
but he had lived and died “a member in good standing,” and any other
treatment of his character by the preacher would have been a scandalous
thing, unheard of and not to be forgiven. At the close of his discourse
the minister turned his colorless eyes upon the woman who sat apart.
“There was,” he said, his voice falling into a slow and solemn drawl,
“there was one cross which our Lord and Master seen fit to bind upon the
shoulders of the brother who has jest gone befoh us into the glory of
the Heavenly Kingdum. A cross hard to bear, a cross whose liftin’ he had
wrestled for with the Lord Jesus often and mightily in prayer. But which
Divine Providence seen fit to allow to remain upon the shoulders of his
faithful son. It was, my brothers and sisters, the refusal of the only
one of his kin to accept the Lord, to wash herself in the blood of the
Lamb, to join with those who journey onward safe in the arms of Jesus
into the glory of everlastin, life.” His voice had risen into a shout.
“The night is comin’, the day is almost done. Oh! let us pray for them
who falters and will not turn from the wrath of God befoh it is too
late.” His voice sank suddenly into a whisper, and the words “too late”
 went hissing out over the heads of the people who sat with craning necks
and knowing faces cruelly turned toward the woman, whose eyes for a
single instant had not left the front of the dingy yellow pulpit.

The hearse, with the one closed carriage of which the village boasted,
moved slowly away from the church along the muddy road, followed by a
straggling line of wagons. The majority of the people lingered about the
church door watching the woman who sat stiffly erect in the carriage,
the minister facing her, at her side the woman who seemed to have
so strange a love for the dead. This woman sat with her handkerchief
pressed to her eyes as if she must needs make amends for the other’s
stony composure.

The road, after leaving the village in the bottom lands along the
river, wound up the side of the bluff upon which the burying ground
was situated. It was an autumn day, and the golden haze of that most
glorious of seasons in the Missouri valley bathed the wide stretch of
country upon which the cemetery looked down. A sky of marvellous blue
spread its canopy above them, while the bright glow of the western sun
brought out in pitiless detail the dreary little home of the dead with
its crude tiptilted monuments and scattered, sunken graves, its rays
enfolding with no mellowing touch the group of sallow-faced men and
women in rusty and shapeless garb who clustered about the newly made
grave. They lifted their voices and sang quaveringly amid the strangely
death-like stillness of the declining day. It was a dismal tune in
plaintive minors, and as they dragged it out in unmusical and uncertain
tones it seemed a fitting symbol of their narrow, unlovely lives. When
the last clod of reddish clay had fallen upon the oblong mound, they
turned and walked away to leave their dead unnoticed until another
of the living should pass from the grimness of life into the--to
them--greater grimness of death.

As the procession crawled along the heavy road toward the cluster of
houses upon the river’s bank, the minister, his great hands resting upon
his knees, his pale eyes blinking solemnly, began:--

“E-eliz’beth, you are left alone now.” She nodded her head in
affirmation. “You haven’t much of this world’s goods.”

“I’ve kept two of us from starvin’ for five years. I reckon I can keep
myself,” she replied stiffly.

“Yoh father was well-fixed once, but the Lord seen fit to deprive him of
his earthly treasures that he might lay more store by them gifts which
is above earthly price.”

“He was a graspin’ man and over-reached himself.”

The woman beside her sniffed reproachfully and glanced at the minister
with sorrowful air. The man stirred uneasily and lifted a hand in
expostulation.

“A daughter shouldn’t jedge. If you was enlightened by the spirit you
would n’t be so lackin’ in Christian charity.”

She had endured much that long afternoon, and she raised her eyes now
defiantly.

“I’ve done my duty by him--I’ve done my duty for twenty years without
complainin’.”

“The pride of the onregenerate must be humbled,” returned the minister.

She vouchsafed no reply, and they went on in silence, the setting sun
touching with softened light her worn face and tired eyes.

The sun was low in the western sky when the two women reached the
small house, once white but now a dirty gray, with great yellow streaks
following the lines of the overlapping clapboards. The black waters of
the swiftly flowing river were flecked with red and gold under the level
rays of the sun, the rounded hills on the other side of the stream were
softly blue, toward the east a white fog was rising. A flock of wild
geese high in the gray-blue sky was flying swiftly southward, spread out
in a great straggling V. The mournful cry of their leader reached the
two women faintly, the flight of the wild geese was an unfailing sign of
approaching winter, and they watched the black lines of the flying fowls
until they vanished in the southern sky, their weird cry growing fainter
and sadder and finally dying away, leaving the swish of the river
against its muddy bank the only sound which troubled the quiet of the
autumn twilight. Two women with hushed voices and funereal faces waited
inside the dingy front room of the house.

“It was a right smart gathering,” said one of them.

“I never see a finer,” said the other.

“And the minister was mighty pow’ful,” ventured the third in mournful
tone.

They looked at the dead man’s daughter expectantly. Common decency
surely required some expression of gratified approval of the
congregation and the sermon. But she was folding her shawl carefully,
laying it upon the bed alongside her rusty bonnet. She seemed not to
have heard their voices. Then she sat stiffly by the window looking out
at the mud-clogged road.

“I hope you feel reconciled, Miss ‘Lizbeth,” one of the women began.

“I reckon I am. He’s been awful hard to take care of,” she replied with
her hard honesty. She turned her eyes away from the window and looked
wearily at her visitors.

“It’s supper time. There ain’t any use of your stayin’ with me.”

The three women arose, angry at their dismissal.

“I ‘lowed you’d want some one to stay with you the first night,” said
one of them with a lugubrious sniff.

“I ‘ve got all the nights of my life to stay alone in. I ‘bout as well
begin now.”

She watched them as they went away through the deepening gloom, their
heads together nodding wisely. They were talking about her, of course.
She knew well enough what they said. She knew how hard and strange and
unfeeling they were calling her. And as she sat alone by the window she
wondered whether she was all these. The bed in its dark corner brought
to her mind the picture of the man who had first quit it for his narrow
bed upon the hillside. She fancied that she saw his hard, thin, yellow
face upon the pillow now; that she heard his querulous voice demanding
her attention, upbraiding her for some fancied forgetfulness, fiercely
denouncing her for her lack of “religion.” How hard he had been! As the
woman’s thoughts travelled back along the years she could not recall one
kind word, one touch of thankfulness for her unremitting care, for her
absolute immolation of life, hope, love upon the altar of “duty.” Twenty
years! what a long time it seemed!

She passed into the back room and pressed close to the little square
looking-glass which hung against its wall. The daylight was well-nigh
gone, but she could yet discern the reflection of her face against the
background of gray twilight. How old she looked! How sallow she had
grown! There were great lines about her mouth and deep furrows between
her eyes. And her hair,--how dingy it was with its streaks of yellowish
gray! Twenty years ago she had been proud of her hair. It had been
bright and soft. She was twenty years old then, and there were roses in
her cheeks, and her eyes, so pale and tired now, had been blue and fresh
then. She wondered if she had wept their color and their brightness
away. Perhaps that was the reason no tears were left for her father. She
had shed them all long ago for the man whom she had loved and given up.

She did not return to the front room where the great bed loomed so
weirdly in the gloom, but sat by the one window in the little back
room, half kitchen, half dining-room, looking out upon the river growing
blacker and colder in the falling night as it flowed from out of the
west where a rapidly diminishing, dull red streak marked the track of
the vanished sun.

Twenty years since her mother died and her sister, selfish in her new
life as a wife, had said that ‘Lizbeth’s duty lay in their father’s
house. He might marry again or die in a few years. Surely it was not so
hard for a young girl to wait. So she had waited, her lover fretting
as lovers will, until one day she had awakened to the fact that a man’s
patience is not like a woman’s. There had been one awful night which she
remembered after all these years with a shudder. A night when, for the
first and only time in her hard life, she had turned hotly upon the
stern old man and told him of her love and of her wrecked girlhood,
praying wildly for some help, for some sympathy. She caught her breath
sharply now as she recalled her father’s bitter words. That same night
her lover left. Fifteen years had come and gone since then. The great
world had taken him, and whether he lived or had been claimed again by
mother earth the woman who sat and dreamed of the past alone in the dusk
knew naught of him. She had practised a woman’s faithfulness; she had
reaped a woman’s hard reward. Afterwards her sister died and left to
her care a blue-eyed babe. How she had poured out upon that baby boy the
pent up mother-love within her. But the gods in their wisdom had taken
him too. In this still night as she lived over again the years which
were gone, she seemed to feel the clasp of those baby arms about her
neck and to hear the crooning of that soft baby voice.

And then came the long years of her father’s illness when she knew no
moment of rest or peace. It had been a long struggle between a loveless
woman on one side and gaunt starvation upon the other without one word
of gratitude to strengthen her. And they called her hard because she
could not weep! She looked at her hands, holding them up close to her
face. How misshapen and ugly from toil they were!

It was quite dark now and the river murmured strangely under the wind
which was creeping down from the north. Her hands fell back into her lap
and two great tears coursed slowly down her worn face--not for the man
who lay under the stars in the little cemetery on the hill, but for her
own vanished youth and love and hope.



“WHEN THE KING COMES IN”

By Anthony Leland

SHE slunk along in the shadows listlessly, staring with unheeding eyes
at the shuffling crowds upon the sidewalks, at the fly-blown, tawdry
splendors of the shop windows, and at the yellow gloom of the pawn-shop.
The autumn wind swept sharply up from the river, and she drew her old
plaid shawl about her tightly with one hand, while with the other she
covered her swollen and discolored cheek. The sidewalks and roadway
were covered with a thin, slippery coating of mingled filth and mud.
An autumn mist, heavy with smoke, pressed itself tightly down upon the
street, deadening the light of the electric lamps at the corners into
mere splotches of a dully-luminous gray. Frowsy, palefaced girls hung
about dark doorways where they bandied mirthless jests with lounging men
and boys. In front of a bar-room, whence came the fangling notes of a
piano and the scream of a high-pitched soprano voice, a man stood and
urged the passers-by to go in and witness “the dizziest ‘vawdyville’ in
the city.” The woman in the old plaid shawl passed him without heeding
his blatant voice. She had heard his sing-song shout many times; the
“dizzy vawdyville” was nothing new. There never was anything new in
Myrtle Street; it was ever the same ugly, sordid, joyless place day and
night, week in and week out. It was always crowded with people, but it
was always strangely sullen and mirthless. You never heard any one laugh
there. At times when some one slipped and fell upon the slime of the
pavement, or when one of the white-faced girls hurled shrill defiance at
a man or at her companions, a hoarse human bark rent the air, but it was
not a laugh. Even the children, who scrambled in the gutters and crept
in and out of the dark alleys, forgot to laugh.

The woman with swollen and discolored cheek, who was crawling along
in the shadows, halted in front of a dram-shop on a corner, and gazed
doubtfully, longingly, at its swinging door. She was wondering if
perchance Red Mike would trust her for a drink. She felt keenly the
chill air from the river. She was strangely weary and down-hearted, too.

Earlier in the evening she and her man had quarrelled. He was drunk, as
usual, and had struck her, but for some unaccountable reason she had
not screeched and struck back and tried to claw his face. She had
simply grabbed her old shawl and escaped into the street, where she had
wandered about for an hour. It was very odd that she had acted thus, and
now she was shamefaced about asking Red Mike for a drink of whiskey! He
got all their meagre earnings, anyway, did Red Mike, and he was usually
easy enough about donating a dram or two when they were down in their
luck, and heretofore she had n’t minded asking him. And if he chanced to
refuse, she eased her mind by a good mouthful of curses, which she spat
at him like a cat. But tonight she was foolishly squeamish about asking
him; she feared the loafers about the bar would jeer at her if he
refused; her face pained her where Con’s blow had fallen, and she was
cold and shivering, and--well, she was losing her nerve. So she turned
away from the hot glow of the bar-room door and passed on into the mists
of the street.

As she crawled along there came to her ears a quick thud of a drum-beat
and the sound of men and women’s voices singing. Marching through the
gloom they came, a flapping banner above their heads, the red shirts of
the men and the blue, scarlet-banded bonnets of the women lending for
a moment a patch of color to the dim dinginess of the street. Suddenly
they paused and fell upon their knees in the road, while a man’s
voice wailed out a prayer. Time was when Myrtle Street gibed at the
Salvationists and threw rocks at them and hustled them about. But that
was when the red shirts and the flapping banner were something new. The
newness was gone now, and Myrtle Street merely shuffled indifferently
past, and the beat of the big drum, the strident voices of the exhorters
were quite as much a part of the night sounds of the place as the
bawling of the showman or the chatter of the frowsy girls. The woman,
shivering under her shawl and fondling her bruised cheek, glanced
apathetically at the kneeling men and women, when quickly her eyes
became fixed upon the face of one of them whom she knew. It was Maggie,
the girl who once occupied a dark little hole of a room next her own in
the big tenement house where she yet lived. Maggie! a forlorn, starving
thing of whom she had lost track entirely--in truth, she had not thought
of her since the day when the poor, sniveling, pale-faced creature had
been turned into the street for not paying her rent. Myrtle Street
does not waste much time in tracing the whereabouts of unfortunate
acquaintances, nor in thinking of them after they drift out of sight
under the ever-mounting wave of disaster which laps hungrily thereabout.
But Maggie in a big bonnet, with her eyes closed and kneeling in the
mud, was enough to arouse Myrtle Street’s benumbed curiosity. So the
bedraggled woman on the sidewalk pressed quite close to the curb and
stared at her, wondering vaguely at the transformation. The man ended
his prayer, and his companions, rising to their feet, began to sing
again. The woman on the curb took no heed of the words which they sang.
She was not for some moments vividly conscious of the song at all; she
was conscious only of being tired and cold. Her curiosity regarding
Maggie was dying, and she loitered with the little group which huddled
upon the curb, simply because she had nowhere else to go. But as she
stood there in the mist with her sunken eyes staring vacantly into the
night, the music which touched her ears began to affect her oddly. It
was a curious, wailing melody, with a barbaric accompaniment of jingling
tambourines, and as its monotonous, insistent swing beat the air a
strange feeling of awakening began to stir her dull veins. She weaved to
and fro a little in unison with the measure of the song. She closed her
eyes and felt a tightening in her throat. She clutched her shawl. She
felt a wild desire to cry out or sob. Suddenly they ceased to sing,
and she opened her eyes with a start. Maggie stepped into the little
semi-circle of men and women, and in high, hard tones began to speak.

“Oh! Those is great, great words, my friends, which we have just sung,”
 she said; “awful words! Terrifyin’ words! Did you hear ‘em? Did you
understand ‘em? Did they come home to you?

               “‘When the King comes in,

               Like lightning’s flash will that instant show

               Things hidden long from friend and foe.

               Just what he is will each one know,

                   When the King comes in.’

“Think of it! Think of it! Like a flash will it be, and you will know
and I will know--everybody will know just what we are. Oh! It is awful!
Like lightning’s flash will that coming be--remember that! Don’t try to
believe it is far off. It isn’t. It may be to-night. It may be within
an hour--a minute--a second, for you and me. But be it near or far, it’s
coming, coming, coming!” Her voice shrilled piercingly, and the woman,
listening so intently upon the curb, felt a thrill of excitement at the
sound. It was not clear to her what it all meant, but she had a queer
feeling of awe as she looked at Maggie’s drawn face and listened to her
strained, sharp voice. “My God!” the girl continued, “think of it! Think
if He comes to-night and finds you in all your sin and wickedness and
filth. Think, think and be afraid. Think, and before it’s too late, get
saved! I am saved, and I thank God to-night for it!”

A low chorus of “Glory to God!”

“I believe!”

“I believe!” came from her companions.

“I am glad to-night to stand here to tell you that I am saved and
happy--oh! so happy! Why do you wait? Some of you know me--I was sinful
and tired and afraid once, but not now, thank God! not now. I’m saved,
saved, saved!”

Louder and wilder grew the girl’s cry. She waved her arms violently, and
paced rapidly to and fro. The listening woman shifted her position from
the sidewalk to the gutter. Her hands loosened their clutch upon her
shawl; she wrung them constantly as she looked with wondering eyes at
Maggie--Maggie who was n’t tired nor afraid any more, and was happy, and
all because she was “saved”! What did it all mean? How had it happened?

The girl stopped abruptly in her walk, and, as though answering her
thought, cried, “It is so easy to get saved, too. All you have to do is
to throw yourself on your knees and call on Jesus, and give yourself up
to Him, and all your sins and fears and troubles and burdens are gone,
and you’ll be happy and glad and free and saved forever!”

Without a pause her voice shot into the song which they had sung before;
but now its measure was changed to a clear, quick chant, with which she
kept time by a soft patting with her hands. Clearer and higher grew
her tones, and her companions, sinking to their knees, moaned in hushed
voices a weird accompaniment, while the gently shaken tambourines lent
again their strange barbaric rhythm, marked from time to time by the
great drum’s muffled beat.

Nearer and nearer to the semi-circle of kneeling figures stole the
listening woman. Tears were streaming from her eyes, her blue lips
quivered, a great sob tore itself from her tight throat. At length she
stood quite within the lines of the singers, and then, with a strange,
wild cry, she, too, fell upon her knees in the slime of the street. Her
old shawl fell from her head, her arms rested upon the drum, her swollen
face was buried in them. A great shout of “Glory to God!” went up about
her, and some one on the curb cried amazedly, “Why, it’s old Kit!” But
she heard only that monotonous wailing voice chanting stridently “When
the King Comes In.” Afterwards there came a knowledge of some one’s arm
across her shoulders, of whispered words and urgent voices, a sensation
of being lifted to her feet and helped along the street, and then a
confusing blur of yellow light from oil lamps in a dingy hall. And at
length full consciousness, dull fatigue, and an overwhelming desire for
sleep.

Maggie and one of the brothers in red jersey and jaunty cap walked home
with her, pouring into her ears encouraging advice in strange, cant
words, which she but half understood. At the doorway of the human hive
where she and Con slept and fought and starved the man looked sharply at
Maggie.

“You are sure!” he whispered.

“Yes--they’re married,” replied the girl.

“You will come to the barracks early to-morrow morning?” he asked,
turning to Kit.

She promised to do so, and, passing into the dark hall, climbed upward
to where Con lay in drunken stupor.

The following morning Kit stepped into a new world--a world of friendly
words and close companionship. The squalidly poor know nothing of that
luxury called friendship. They are huddled together in vast crowds,
squeezed and packed by scores within narrow limits, jostled and elbowed
by their kind at every turn. They are suffocated by close association.
But of fellowship, of interest in one another’s aims, of sympathy with
one another’s hardships, they know nothing. Like starving dogs over a
bone, they growl and snarl and fly straight at throats. So, when Kit
crept half sullenly into the barracks and was greeted by a loud chorus
of interested questions and by unstinted praise, the unfamiliar warmth
of friendly words thawed into life her sluggish sensibilities. And, too,
an entirely new view of herself and the world was suddenly opened to
her bewildered gaze,--for the first time in her hard life she was looked
upon as a human being of some importance. They told her that she was
suddenly become different from her kind, she was better than they, she
was “saved.” Not only that, but she must “save” others. She must quit
the old life, and work for the common good. Her new friends were as
uncouth and as poor and as hard pressed as herself. In their
attitude there was none of that maddening condescension, none of that
supercilious casting of surplus comforts at her feet, as one would toss
a half-eaten orange toward a hungry-eyed beggar brat, which was the
only sort of charity Kit had known of hitherto. The friendship of the
Salvationists was the frank comradeship of plain men and women; their
charity was the outcome of a crude, but living, religious idea. And
their wild enthusiasm caught her dull soul in its sweep and lifted it a
little above the fetid mists of her world. Some latent spark of womanly
ambition was stirred into life, and with halting, dogged feet she tried
to climb out of the dank valley of her past.

It was a wearisome task, but the exhilarating sense of friendly interest
in her success sustained her. The old appetite for strong drink stung
her, but the excitement of the new life helped to dull the craving.
She tramped the streets with her companions, her cracked voice shouting
quaveringly with them as they sang. She stepped sometimes into the
little semicircle at the street corners to tell excitedly “how glad she
was that she was saved.” She knelt with the others and prayed aloud for
those who were not as she. She was one of a great, enthusiastic army,
held up and aided by the superficial strength which comes of close
fellowship and common aims. But with that growth of strength in one
quarter there came a strange weakness in another. She was growing
childishly afraid of Con, and with the growth of that fear there started
into life and waxed strong a new loathing and hatred for his rum-soaked
person. She would have fled from him, only that her new masters told
her she must stick to him. It was her duty to cling to him and to “save”
 him. Their first injunction she obeyed meekly; but to their second
command she turned a deaf ear. She knew what Con was; they did not.
Every human creature in the wide world might be saved--except her
husband. He was beyond the pale of humanity. So long as she did not
bother him, he paid little attention to her goings and comings. Only
once she ventured to protest when he had spent a week’s earnings for
drink (Con had a “pull” with the ward “boss,” and when there were no
other means of getting money for drink he found employment with the
street-cleaners), and he had knocked her down for her temerity, and
after that she held her peace and wished dumbly that he might die.

At length there came a proud day when Kit, after unwonted labor over
her wash-tub, was the possessor of a decent black gown and of the
long-coveted poke bonnet. It was the eve of a great rally at the
barracks, when some officer of high degree from “headquarters” was to
review the ranks of his army. At the close of day, when the long shadows
were beginning to steal across the bare little room, with its musty bed,
its one chair, and its rickety table pushed into a corner, Kit crouched
upon the floor close up under the gray light of her window, intent upon
her work. There were but a few stitches needed to complete her gown,
and her stiff fingers fumbled eagerly with the unfamiliar needle. Her
thoughts were busy with the glories of the morrow, and she crooned
one of the Salvationist hymns as she sewed. And to her singing in the
twilight there came the sound of shuffling footsteps outside her door.
She looked up apprehensively as the door flew open to admit her husband.
He was drunk, sullenly, brutally drunk.

“Where’s my supper?” he demanded, falling heavily into the chair.
“Where’s my supper, I say?” he repeated, fixing an evil eye upon her.

“I’ll get it now, Con. I was busy workin’ on my dress, an’ I clean
forgot your supper,” she explained, humbly.

“Yer dress?” he asked. “What right’s a measly fool like you with
dresses? Le’s see it.” He stretched forth his hand. She caught the black
garment sharply away from him.

“No, you’ll spoil it!” she cried, tossing the dress into a corner behind
the bed. “You just set still there, an’ I’ll get you somethin’ to eat.”

“Eatin’ be damned!” he replied, surlily. “I want somethin’ to drink.
Here! you take the can an’ get somethin’ from Mike’s. ‘F you can buy
clothes, you can buy drinks.”

“No, no, Con, not now. Wait till I get supper.”

“I don’t want no supper! You rush de can, I tell you!”

“I won’t!”

“The hell you won’t!”

He started from his chair and went towards her, but something in her
eyes made even his sodden senses recoil. He looked at her dubiously a
moment, and then stumbled out of the room, muttering thickly.

As the door closed behind him, the woman sprang for her gown, and,
dragging it from the corner, slipped it on. A few more stitches were
needed in it, but she dared not wait to take them. A great terror filled
her soul. She felt that her husband would return quickly, uglier and
wilder by a few drams. With shaking fingers she pinned her gown together
as best she might. She smoothed her scanty, dry, dead hair with her
hands, and then she lifted her bonnet from the bed. She held it a moment
admiringly, drawing her fingers softly over its trimmings of dark-blue
silk, and along its narrow band of scarlet ribbon, where the bright
gilt letters shone. She put it on her head and tied the soft strings
carefully under her chin. She glanced hesitatingly at the old plaid
shawl, wishing that she had a better one, but the night was cold, and
she drew it about her shoulders. With a little sigh of relief she turned
to leave the room. As her hand touched the door-latch she heard Con’s
heavy tread upon the stairs. She noted that he staggered a little, and
with a quick indrawing of her breath she drew herself flat against the
wall in the shadows. The man threw the door open fiercely, steadying
himself against the jamb as he peered into the dim room.

“Where are you, you she-devil?” he called.

The woman made no sound, and he stepped inside the room, with his broad
back towards her. Inch by inch she crept along against the wall towards
the door, as he stood turning from side to side in his maudlin search
for her, and as her feet touched the threshold he turned and saw her. He
rushed forward and grabbed her arms.

“Givin’ me the dirty sneak, are you?” he growled, shoving her inside the
room and closing the door. “What d’ yer mean? Eh?”

Kit made no answer. She backed off, her face gleaming white inside her
big bonnet.

“Yer a nice one, ain’t you?” he continued. “Won’t get me nothin’ to eat
or drink, an’ spendin’ yer money fur clothes, an’ then tryin’ to make
a sneak! Oh! I was onto you all the time! You white-faced fool! What d’
yer mean? Eh? Damn you, what d’ yer mean?”

“Stop, Con! Don’t hit me!”

He stumbled forward deliberately and struck her upturned face. She
staggered into the corner by the table, and faced him again. A tiny
stream of something red trickled down her cheek. Her eyes were suddenly
ablaze.

“Let me go!” she shrieked. “Let me go!”

“Yer’ll go an’ get de can filled, that’s where yer’ll go!”

“I won’t--_never!_”

A spasm of hate and rage and terror writhed in her face. With the
quickness of desperation she caught a knife from the table and waited
for him.

He lunged towards her with uplifted arm. Before his blow fell she gave
one swift thrust, and his arm came down simply upon her shoulder. For
a moment he stood strangely still. He clenched his fist; his teeth were
tight; he breathed hard through his nose.

“Damn you----” Then he reeled and fell.

And as the woman stood there in the gathering gloom, with his blood
crawling towards her on the floor, she heard the beat of a drum, and
the sound of voices singing shrilly, far down the street. On they came,
nearer and louder, until her listening ears heard the thrum of the
tambourines. Under her window they passed, and away into the night,
until at last their sound was lost in the ceaseless, sullen tumult of
Myrtle Street.



MANDANY’S FOOL

By Maria Louise Pool

YE ain’t got hungry for termarters, be ye?”

Some one had knocked at the screen door, and as there was no response,
a man’s strident, good-humored voice put the above question concerning
tomatoes.

But somebody had heard.

A woman had been sitting in the kitchen with a pan of seek-no-further
apples in her lap. She was paring and quartering these and then stabbing
the quarters through and stringing them on yards of white twine,
preparatory to festooning them on the clothes-horse which stood in the
yard. This horse was already decorated profusely in this way. A cloud of
wasps had flown from the drying fruit as the man walked up the path. He
swung off his hat and waved the insects away.

“I say, have ye got hungry agin for termarters?” he repeated.

Then he rattled the screen; but it was hooked on the inside.

He turned and surveyed the three windows that were visible in the bit of
a house.

“They wouldn’t both be gone, ‘n’ left them apples out,” he said to
himself. “I’m ‘bout sure Ann’s to home; ‘n’ she’s the one I want to
see.”

A woman in the bed-room which opened from the kitchen was hurriedly
smoothing her hair and peering into the glass. She was speaking aloud
with the air of one who constantly talks to herself.

“Jest as sure’s I don’t comb my hair the first thing, somebody comes.”

She gave a last pat and went to the door. There was a faint smirk on her
lips and a flush on her face.

Her tall figure was swayed by a slight, eager tremor as she saw who was
standing there. She exclaimed:--

“Goodness me! ‘T ain’t you, Mr. Baker, is it? Won’t ye walk right in?
But I don’t want no termarters; they always go aginst me. Aunt Mandany
ain’t to home.”

“Oh, ain’t she?” was the brisk response. “Then I guess I will come in.”

The speaker pushed open the now unfastened door and entered. He set his
basket of tomatoes with a thump on the rug, and wiped his broad, red
face.

“Fact is,” he said with a grin, “I knew she was gone. I seen her goin’
crosst the pastur’. That’s why I come now. I ain’t got no longin’ to
see Aunt Mandany--no, sir-ee, not a grain of longin’ to see her. But I
thought ‘t would be agreeable to me to clap my eyes on to you.”

The woman simpered, made an inarticulate sound, and hurriedly resumed
her seat and her apple-cutting.

“Won’t you se’ down, Mr. Baker?” she asked.

Her fingers trembled as she took the darning-needle and jabbed it
through an apple quarter. The needle went into her flesh also. She gave
a little cry and thrust her finger into her mouth. Her large, pale eyes
turned wistfully towards her companion. The faded, already elderly mouth
quivered.

“I’m jest as scar’t ‘s I c’n be if I see blood,” she whispered.

Mr. Baker’s heavy under lip twitched; his face softened. But he spoke
roughly.

“You needn’t mind that bit er blood,” he said, “that won’t hurt nothin’.
I don’t care if I do se’ down. I ain’t drove any this mornin’. I c’n
jest as well as not take hold ‘n’ help ye. I s’pose Mandany left a
thunderin’ lot for ye to do while she’s gone?”

“Two bushels,” was the answer.

“The old cat! That’s too much. But ‘t won’t be for both of us, will it,
Ann?”

The woman said, “No.”

She looked for an instant intently at the man who had drawn his chair
directly opposite her. He was already paring an apple.

“I d’ know what to make of it,” she said, still in a whisper.

“To make of what?” briskly.

“Why, when folks are so good to me ‘s you be.”

“Oh, sho’, now! Everybody ain’t like your Aunt Mandany.”

“‘Sh! Don’t speak so loud! Mebby she’ll be comin’ back.”

“No, she won’t. ‘N’ no matter if she is.”

The loud, confident tone rang cheerily in the room.

During the silence that followed Mr. Baker watched Ann’s deft fingers.

“Everybody says you’re real capable,” he remarked.

A joyous red covered Ann’s face.

“I jest about do all the work here,” she said.

She looked at the man again.

There was something curiously sweet in the simple face. The patient
line at each side of the close, pale mouth had a strange effect upon Mr.
Baker.

He had been known to say violently in conversation at the store that he
“never seen Ann Tracy ‘thout wantin’ to thrash her Aunt Mandany.”

“What in time be you dryin’ seek-no-further for?” he now exclaimed with
some fierceness. “They’re the flattest kind of apples I know of.”

“That’s what Aunt says,” was the reply; “she says they’re most as flat’s
as I be, ‘n’ that’s flat ‘nough.”

These words were pronounced as if the speaker were merely stating a
well-known fact.

“Then what does she do um for?” persisted Mr. Baker.

“She says they’re good ‘nough to swop for groceries in the spring.”

Mr. Baker made a deep gash in an apple, and held his tongue.

Ann continued her work, but she took a good deal of seek-no-further with
the skin in a way that would have shocked Aunt Mandany.

Suddenly she raised her eyes to the sturdy face opposite her and said:--

“I guess your wife had a real good time, didn’t she, Mr. Baker, when she
was livin’?”

Mr. Baker dropped his knife. He glanced up and met the wistful gaze upon
him.

Something that he had thought long dead stirred in his consciousness.

“I hope so,” he said gently. “I do declare I tried to make her have a
good time.”

“How long’s she be’n dead?”

“‘Most ten year. We was livin’ down to Norris Corners then.”

The man picked up his knife and absently tried the edge of it on the
ball of his thumb.

“I s’pose,” said Ann, “that folks are sorry when their wives die.”

Mr. Baker gave a short laugh.

“Wall, that depends.”

“Oh, does it? I thought folks had to love their wives, ‘n’ be sorry when
they died.”

Here Mr. Baker laughed again. He made no other answer for several
minutes. At last he said:

“I was sorry enough when my wife died.”

A great pile of quartered apples was heaped up in the wooden bowl before
either spoke again.

Then Ann exclaimed with a piteous intensity:

“Oh, I’m awful tired of bein’ Aunt Mandany’s fool!”

Mr. Baker stamped his foot involuntarily.

“How jew know they call you that?” he cried in a great voice.

“I heard Jane Littlefield tell Mis’ Monk she hoped nobody’d ask
Mandany’s fool to the sociable. And Mr. Fletcher’s boy told me that’s
what folks called me.”

“Damn Jane Littlefield! Damn that little devil of a boy!”

These dreadful words burst out furiously.

Perhaps Ann did not look as shocked as she ought.

In a moment she smiled her immature, simple smile that had a touching
appeal in it.

“‘T ain’t no use denyin’ it,” she said; “I ain’t jes’ like other folks,
‘n’ that’s a fact. I can’t think stiddy more ‘n a minute. Things all run
together, somehow. ‘N’ the back er my head’s odd’s it can be.”

“Pooh! What of it? There can’t any of us think stiddy; ‘n’ if we could
what would it amount to, I should like to know? It would n’t amount to a
row of pins.”

Ann dropped her work and clasped her hands. Mr. Baker saw that her
hands were hard, and stained almost black on fingers and thumbs by much
cutting of apples.

“Ye see,” she said, in a tremulous voice, “sometimes I think if mother
had lived she’d er treated me so ‘t I could think stiddier. I s’pose
mother’d er loved me. They say mothers do. But Aunt Mandany told me
mother died the year I got my fall from the cherry-tree. I was eight
then. I don’t remember nothin’ ‘bout it, nor ‘bout anything much. Mr.
Baker, do you remember your mother?”

Mr. Baker said “Yes,” abruptly. Something made it impossible for him to
say more.

“I d’ know how ‘tis,” went on the thin, minor voice, “but it always
did seem to me ‘s though if I could remember my mother I could think
stiddier, somehow. Do you think I could?”

Mr. Baker started to his feet.

“I’ll be dumbed ‘f I c’n stan’ it,” he shouted. “No, nor I won’t stan’
it, nuther!”

He walked noisily across the room.

He came back and stood in front of Ann, who had patiently resumed work.

“Come,” he said, “I think a lot of ye. Le’s git married.”

Ann looked up. She dropped her knife.

“Then I should live with you?” she asked.

“Of course.”

She laughed.

There was so much of confident happiness in that laugh that the man’s
heart glowed youthfully.

“I shall be real glad to marry you, Mr. Baker,” she said. Then, with
pride, “‘N’ I c’n cook, ‘n’ I know first rate how to do housework.”

She rose to her feet; her eyes shone.

Mr. Baker put his arm about her.

“Le’s go right along now,” he said, more quickly than he had yet spoken.
“We’ll call to the minister’s ‘n’ engage him. You c’n stop there. We’ll
be married to-day.”

“Can’t ye wait till I c’n put on my bunnit ‘n’ shawl?” Ann asked.

She left the room. In a few moments she returned dressed for going. She
had a sheet of note-paper, a bottle of ink, and a pen in her hands.

“I c’n write,” she said confidently, “‘n’ I call it fairer to leave word
for Aunt Mandany.”

“All right,” was the response; “go ahead.”

Mr. Baker said afterward that he never got much more nervous in his life
than while Ann was writing that note. What if Mandany should appear! He
wasn’t going to back out, but he didn’t want to see that woman.

The ink was thick, the pen was like a pin, and Ann was a good while
making each letter, but the task was at last accomplished. She held out
the sheet to her companion.

“Ain’t that right?” she asked.

Mr. Baker drew his face down solemnly as he read:--

     Dere Aunt Mandane:--

     I’m so dretfull Tired of beeing youre fool that ime going
     too be Mr. Baker’s. He askt me.

     Ann.

“That’s jest the thing,” he said explosively. “Now, come on.”

As they walked along in the hot fall sunshine Mr. Baker said
earnestly:--

“I’m certain sure we sh’ll be ever so much happier.”

“So ‘m I,” Ann replied, with cheerful confidence.

They were on a lonely road, and they walked hand in hand.

“I’m goin’ to be good to ye,” said the man, with still more earnestness.
Then, in a challenging tone, as if addressing the world at large, “I
guess ‘t ain’t nobody’s business but our’n.”

Ann looked at him and smiled trustfully.

After a while he began to laugh.

“I’m thinkin’ of your Aunt Mandany when she reads that letter,” he
explained.



THE WAY TO CONSTANTINOPLE

By Clinton Ross

MRS. DENBY poured the tea.

“Now, speaking of Constantinople.”

Mrs. Denby blushed. I envied Denby.

“Ah, yes,” said I, “I have read Gautier, and that is a very good
monograph of Marion Crawford’s. I was there once myself.”

“Were you?” said Mrs. Denby, demurely. “Do you take sugar?”

“Oh, tell me!” I began, for I saw I was expected to show some interest.

“Don’t, Dick,” began Mrs. Denby.

“Oh, it’s only Tom,” said Denby, fondly; but not half so fondly as he
had before he had found her, and persuaded her, and--I always have had
such bad luck with the woman whom it’s worth while trying to marry!

“You see,--it’s a silly story. Dick’s usually are,” began Mrs. Denby.

“Oh, fiddlesticks!” said Denby. “Now, you know--”

“Oh, if you must,” said Mrs. Denby, despairfully.

“Paris was a glare of splendor that February,--after the North
Atlantic,” Denby went on. “Did you ever leave New York of a dismal day
of winter fog and a week after find yourself in Havre? The boulevards
are gay, the shops resplendent. Paris is a different place from Paris
in July,--when hordes of our countrymen swoop down on it like the Huns.
It’s like the rural visitor doing Fifth Avenue in August, and wondering
why New York is so much talked about. But Paris in February is the Paris
one dreams of when the word is pronounced, with all its suggestiveness
of the world’s gayety. Yet, it was cold that February,--as bitter as in
New York; and after coming back one night to my lodging on the Avenue
Carnot, where the cab was unable to make its way because of the frozen
sleet on the smooth paving of the hill the Avenue des Champs Elysées
climbs,--that night I concluded I had not intended exchanging New
York for wintry unpleasantness, and decided to go to Constantinople.
Constantinople, where I had never been, seemed so far away, and I did
not know that it, too, could be bleakly dismal in the spring. The next
morning I booked on the Orient Express. That evening I was snugly put
away in my compartment, and the morning after was looking on a Bavarian
landscape.”

“You always were impulsive,” Mrs. Denby interrupted.

“Yes; nothing proves that more than my conduct the next morning at
breakfast in the dining-car. I appeared late. The place was crowded. A
very pretty girl--”

“Did you really think so then?” said Mrs. Denby.

“Oh, I did, or else I shouldn’t have taken the seat opposite beside a
little chap who was ogling and embarrassing her dreadfully.”

“Such a man’s horrid,” commented Mrs. Denby.

“I saw at once he was one of those little Parisians, whose kind I know
well, who in some way lose their appropriateness when transplanted. For
I knew at once they were not acquaintances. The girl appeared alone,
English or American--I could not be certain. Now, I was sure the man
was objectionable,--not quite a gentleman,--or, if he had been, he had
distorted the quality.”

“Now you need n’t explain,” said Mrs. Denby. “My honest opinion is that
you took the seat for exactly the same reason as he, because----”

“Because the girl was pretty?” said Denby.

“I didn’t say she was,” Mrs. Denby hastened to add.

“‘I beg pardon, Monsieur,’ said I to the man, when he glared. Presently
the Swiss brought the young lady’s bill, when a strange agitation
appeared in my vis-à-vis. I saw and felt for her. She had no money. She
probably had her ticket, but had lost her purse. She did not attempt to
go back to the Wagon Lit.

“‘I am going to Constantinople,’ she said.

“‘I beg pardon, Madame,’ began the Swiss.

“‘Cannot the bill--

“‘I am sorry, Mademoiselle,’ said the Swiss, and he looked desolated,
with a contrary gleam in his eye.

“Here the man by my side dropped from the category of the gentleman to
that of the cad.

“‘If Mademoiselle will allow me,’ he began eagerly.

“I leaned under the table, pretending to pick up a purse, which I really
took from my pocket.

“‘I think this is your purse,’ I said in English.

“For an instant she scanned me. The Frenchman looked daggers. She was
blushing.

“‘Thank you,’ said she, and I knew she was an American; ‘how stupid of
me to have dropped it.’

“And from my purse she paid the bill, nodded to me, ignoring the
Frenchman, and without further word left the buffet.

“The particular French cad evidently wanted to pick a quarrel with me,
and for a moment I was debating with myself whether I might not have
been an ass. A fool’s money goes the way of his scanty wit. The girl
might appear pretty, innocent, attractive--and yet--I swallowed my
coffee, and returned to my compartment, which I had to myself. The door
was open. Presently I saw the young woman of the breakfast-table
walking up and down the aisle. I was determined I should not notice her.
Suddenly I heard her voice at the door.

“‘Sir, what can you think of me? But I couldn’t help it, really,--I
have lost my purse. Here is yours; I will return the six francs at
Constantinople.’

“I saw a tear; and I was sure my knowledge of femininity----”

“Conceited,” said Mrs. Denby.

“Could not be at fault,” Denby continued. “I bowed.

“‘I’m glad to be able to make the loan--’ I began.

“‘It’s good of you,’ said she.

“‘But if you have lost all your money, I don’t see--’

“‘What?’

“‘How can you avoid borrowing more?’

“‘That man at the table made me feel so detestably,’ she began.

“‘Oh, you must n’t mind!’

“‘And you really are so nice--What do you know about me?’

“‘Oh, I can tell.’

“‘I think you generally can,’ said she.

“‘Isn’t that interesting?’ said I, pointing out of the window at some
peasants in the field.

“‘Ah, yes!’ said she.

“‘May I sit down?’ said I.

“We had reached her seat.

“‘Why, certainly, I shall be glad to have you.’

“‘How does it happen--’ I began after a moment.

“‘Oh, here’s your purse,’ she interrupted.

“‘Now, really, please. It won’t inconvenience me in the least. There are
only five louis there, and I have my portemonnaie besides, and--’

“‘And?’

“‘I believe I said I should be delighted.’

“’ Oh, you did, but you began a--’

“‘What?’ said I, feeling uncomfortable.

“‘A question. I know what it was.’

“‘Well, if you do--’

“‘I’m from Illinois. We don’t regard chaperones as so necessary;
besides--’

“‘Besides?’ I could n’t resist saying.

“‘I believe women should take care of themselves.’ “‘But they
can’t--always.’

“‘You mean--’ she began rather indignantly.

“‘Well--well--they sometimes have to borrow, you know.’

“‘That’s--that’s mean of you.’

“‘Oh, I--I beg pardon.’

“‘You needn’t. I wish I could return your six francs. I am going to
Constantinople to meet my father, who is up from the east. I went all
alone--because--there was nobody.’

“‘I’m sorry,’ said I. ‘Now don’t mind me, please.’

“She looked at me then.

“‘I suppose I shall have to tolerate you. You are the only American on
this train.’

“‘I consider myself your guardian,--with letters testamentary.’

“‘I am forced to it,’ said she, but smiling.”

“Now, she did n’t smile,” said Mrs. Denby.

“‘Oh,’ said I, ‘this is deliciously lucky. I thought I should have this
ride alone.’

“At this moment--for some time had passed--the Swiss announced luncheon,
which she--”

“How horridly forward it all sounds,” interrupted Mrs. Denby.

“Which she took with me.”

“Oh, dear, I wonder at it,” said Mrs. Denby.

“She had to,” said Denby.

“Yes, of course, you had the money,” said Mrs. Denby.

“Well, she tolerated--”

“That’s the word, I think,” assented Mrs. Denby.

“We walked the station at Vienna. We took an ice at Buda-Pesth. We
wondered about Queen Nathalie at Belgrade. We bought beads at Sofia. We
shivered over the Bulgarian soldiers squatting on the platform against
Turkish banditti. I told her how an Orient Express had been held up the
autumn before, a Frankfort banker abstracted, and his ears sent to his
counting-house with a request for a gold payment or else his tongue
would follow.”

“That was horrid of you,” said Mrs. Denby.

“Well, at Constantinople, her father was not there.”

“It was terrible,” said Mrs. Denby.

“But I knew the American Consul’s wife, who took in the situation.”

“It was very nice of her,” said Mrs. Denby.

“We roamed about the Pera; sentimentalized in San Sofia; bargained--”

“With your money,” said Mrs. Denby.

“In the bazaars. We rode in a palanquin, and drove to the Sweet Waters
of Europe, danced at the Russian Legation,--where she was irresistible.”

“Your eyes!” said Mrs. Denby, with severe sarcasm.

“One day her father appeared. She counted out three louis--”

“And five francs sixty centimes,” said Mrs. Denby.

“‘That isn’t all,’ said I.

“‘Why, let me see,’ she began.

“‘It isn’t all,’ said I. ‘There’s my heart.’”

“It was a very silly speech--not at all original,” said Mrs. Denby. “I
should think you would be ashamed to repeat it--before visitors. But,
Mr. Pemberton, you haven’t told me whether you take sugar?”

“Sugar, thanks,” said I. “That’s a good story. It reminds me of an
episode in Hunter’s novel--”

“This is a better story,” said Denby.

“Dick!” said Mrs. Denby, looking at him with sudden earnestness. “Do you
mean that--now!”

I felt, as is often the case lately, the superfluous bachelor. I went to
call on Sally Waters.



THE OLD PARTISAN

By Octave Thanet

I SAT so far back in the gallery that my opinion of my delegate friend
dwindled with every session. Nevertheless my unimportant seat had its
advantages. I could see the vast assembly and watch the throbbing of the
Republican pulse if I could not hear its heartbeats. Therefore, perhaps,
I studied my neighbors more than I might study them under different
circumstances. The great wooden hall had its transient and unsubstantial
character stamped on every bare wooden joist and unclinched nail. It
was gaudy with flags and bunting and cheap portraits. There were tin
bannerets crookedly marshalled on the floor, to indicate the homes of
the different States. A few delegates, doubtless new to the business and
overzealous, were already on the floor, but none of the principals were
visible. They were perspiring and arguing in those committee rooms,
those hotel lobbies and crowded hotel rooms where the real business of
the convention was already done and neatly prepared for presentation
to the nation. I had nothing to keep me from studying my neighbors.
In front of me sat two people who had occupied the same seats at every
session that I was present, a young girl and an old man. The girl wore
the omnipresent shirtwaist (of pretty blue and white tints, with
snowy cuffs and collar), and her green straw hat was decked with blue
corn-flowers, from which I inferred that she had an eye on the fashions.
Her black hair was thick and glossy under the green straw. I thought
that she had a graceful neck. It was very white. Whiter than her face,
which had a touch of sunburn, as if she were often out in the open air.
Somehow I concluded that she was a shop-girl and rode a wheel. If I were
wrong it is not likely that I shall ever know.

The old man I fancied was not so old as he looked; his delicate, haggard
profile may have owed its sunken lines and the dim eye to sickness
rather than to years. He wore the heavy black broadcloth of the rural
politician, and his coat sagged over his narrow chest as if he had left
his waistcoat at home. On his coat lapel were four old-fashioned Blaine
badges. Incessantly he fanned himself.

“It can’t be they ain’t going to nominate him to-day?” he asked rather
than asserted, his voice breaking on the higher notes, the mere wreck of
a voice.

“Oh, maybe later,” the girl reassured him.

“Well, I wanted to attend a Republican convention once more before I
died. Your ma would have it I wasn’t strong enough; but I knew better;
you and I knew better; did n’t we, Jenny?”

She made no answer except to pat his thin, ribbed brown hand with her
soft, white, slim one; but there was a world of sympathy in the gesture
and her silent smile.

“I wonder what your ma said when she came downstairs and found the
letter, and us gone,” he cackled with the garrulous glee of a child
recounting successful mischief; “made me think of the times when you was
little and I stole you away for the circus. Once, your pa thought you
was lost--‘member? And once, you had on your school-dress and you’d tore
it--she did scold you that time. But we had fun when they used to let me
have money, did n’t we, Jenny?”

“Well, now I earn money, we have good times, too, grandpa,” said Jenny,
smiling the same tender, comprehending smile.

“We do that; I don’t know what I would do ‘cept for you, lambie, and
this is--this is a grand time, Jenny, you look and listen; it’s a great
thing to see a nation making its principles and its president--and such
a president!”

He half turned his head as he spoke, with a mounting enthusiasm, thus
bringing his flushing face and eager eyes--no longer dim--into the focus
of his next neighbor’s bright gray eyes. The neighbor was a young man,
not very young but hardly to be called elderly, of an alert bearing and
kindly smile.

“I think him a pretty fair man myself,” said the other with a jocose
understatement; “I come from his town.”

What was there in such a simple statement to bring a distinctly anxious
look into the young girl’s soft eyes? There it was; one could not
mistake it.

“Well!” said the old man; there was a flattering deference in his voice.
“Well, well. And--and maybe you’ve seen him lately?” The quavering
tones sharpened with a keener feeling; it was almost as if the man were
inquiring for some one on whom he had a great stake of affection. “How
did he look? Was he better, stronger?”

“Oh, he looked elegant,” said the Ohio man, easily, but with a
disconcerted side glance at the girl whose eyes were imploring him.

“I’ve been a Blaine man ever since he was run, the time Bob Ingersoll
nominated him,” said the old man, who sighed as if relieved. “I was at
that convention and heard the speech----”

“Ah, that was a speech to hear,” said a man behind, and two or three men
edged their heads nearer.

The old Republican straightened his bent shoulders, his winter-stung
features softened and warmed at the manifestation of interest, his voice
sank to the confidential undertone of the narrator.

“You’re right, sir, right; it was a magnificent speech. I can see him
jest as he stood there, a stoutish, good-looking man, smooth-faced,
his eye straight ahead, and an alternate that sat next me--I was an
alternate; I’ve been an alternate four times; I could have been a
delegate, but I says, ‘No, abler men than me are wanting it; I’m willing
to fight in the ranks.’ But I wished I had a vote, a free vote that day,
I tell you. The alternate near me, he says, ‘You ‘ll hear something fine
now; I’ve heard him speak.’”

“You did, too, I guess.”

“We could hear from the first minute. That kinder fixed our attention.
He had a mellow, rich kind of voice that melted into our ears. We found
ourselves listening and liking him from the first sentence. At first he
was as quiet as a summer breeze, but presently he began to warm up, and
the words flowed out like a stream of jewels. It was electrifying: it
was thrilling, sir; it took us off our feet before we knew it, and when
he came to the climax, those of us that weren’t yelling in the aisles
were jumping up and down on our chairs! I know I found myself prancing
up and down in my own hat on a chair, swinging somebody else’s hat and
screaming at the top of my voice, with the tears running down my cheeks.
God! sir, there were men there on their feet cheering their throats out
that had to vote against him afterwards--had to because they were there
instructed--no more free will than a checked trunk!” The light died out
of his face. “Yes, sir, a great speech; never a greater ever made at a
convention anywhere, never so great a speech, whoever made it: but it
did no good, he wasn’t nominated, and when we did nominate him we were
cheated out of our victory. Well, we ‘ll do better this day.”

“We will that,” said the other man, heartily; “McKinley--”

“You’ll excuse me--” the old man struck in with a deprecating air, yet
under the apology something fiercely eager and anxious that glued the
hearer’s eyes to his quivering old face--“you’ll excuse me. I--I am a
considerable of an invalid and I don’t keep the run of things as I used
to. You see I live with my daughter, and you know how women folks are,
fretting lest things should make you sick, and my girl she worries so,
me reading the papers. Fact is I got a shock once, an awful shock,” he
shivered involuntarily and his dim eyes clouded, “and it worried her
seeing me read. Hadn’t ought to; it don’t worry Jenny here, who often
gets me a paper, quiet like; but you know how it is with women--it’s
easier giving them their head a little--and so I don’t see many papers,
and I kinder dropped off. It seems queer, but I don’t exactly sense it
about this McKinley. Is he running against Blaine or jest for vice?”

The girl, under some feminine pretext of dropping and reaching for
her handkerchief, threw upward a glance of appeal at the interlocutor.
Hurriedly she stepped into the conversation. “My grandfather read a
false report about--about Mr. Blaine’s sickness, and he was not well at
the time and it brought on a bad attack.”

“I understand,” said the listener, with a grave nod of his head and
movement of his eyes in the girl’s direction.

“But about McKinley?” the old man persisted.

“He’s for vice-president,” the girl announced, her eyes fixed on the
hesitating man from Canton. I have often admired the intrepid fashion in
which a woman will put her conscience at a moral hedge, while a man
of no finer spiritual fibre will be straining his eyes to find a hole
through which he can crawl.

“McKinley is not opposed to Blaine, is he?” she asked the man.

“The Republican party has no name that is more loved than that of James
G. Blaine,” said the man, gravely.

“That’s so, that’s so!” the old partisan assented eagerly; “to my mind
he’s the logical candidate.”

The Canton man nodded, and asked if he had ever seen Blaine.

“Once, only once. I was on a delegation sent to wait on him and ask him
to our town to speak--he was in Cincinnati. I held out my hand when
my turn came, and the chairman nearly knocked the breath out of me by
saying, ‘Here’s the man gave more to our campaign fund and worked harder
than any man in the county, and we all worked hard for you, too.’ Well,
Mr. Blaine looked at me. You know the intent way he looks. He has the
most wonderful eyes; look right at you and seem to bore into you like a
gimlet. I felt as if he was looking right down into my soul, and I tell
you I was glad, for I choked up so I couldn’t find a word, not a word,
and I was ready and fluent enough in those days, too, I can tell you;
but I stood there filling up, and squeezed his hand and gulped and got
red, like a fool. But he understood. ‘I have heard of your loyalty to
Republican principles, Mr. Painter,’ says he, in that beautiful voice
of his that was like a violin; and I burst in--I could n’t help it--‘It
ain’t loyalty to Republican principles, it’s to you.’ I said that right
out. And he smiled, and said he, ‘Well, that’s wrong, but it isn’t for
me to quarrel with you there, Mr. Painter,’ and then they pushed me
along: but twice while the talk was going on I saw him look my way and
caught his eye, and he smiled, and when we were all shaking hands for
good-bye he shook hands with a good firm grip, and said he, ‘Good-bye,
Mr. Painter; I hope we shall meet again.’”

The old man drew a long sigh. “Those few moments paid for everything,”
 he said. “I’ve never seen him since. I’ve been sick and lost money. I
ain’t the man I was. I never shall be put on any delegation again, or be
sent to any convention; but I thought if I could only go once more to a
Republican convention and hear them holler for Blaine, and holler once
more myself, I’d be willinger to die. And I told Tom Hale that, and he
and Jenny raised the money. Yes, Jenny, I’m going to tell--he and Jenny
put off being married a bit so ‘s I could go, and go on plenty of money.
Jenny, she worked a month longer to have plenty, and Tom, he slipped
ten dollars into my hand unbeknown to her, jest as we were going, so I’d
always have a dime to give the waiter or the porter. I was never one of
these hayseed farmers too stingy to give a colored boy a dime when
he’d done his best. I didn’t need no money for badges; I got my old
badges--see!”

He pushed out the lapel of his coat, covered with those old-fashioned
frayed bits of tinsel and ribbon, smiling confidently. The girl had
flushed crimson to the rim of her white collar; but there was not a
trace of petulance in her air; and, all at once looking at him, her eyes
filled with tears.

“Tom’s an awful good fellow,” he said, “an awful good fellow.”

“I’m sure of that,” said the Canton man, with the frank American
friendliness, making a little bow in Miss Jenny’s direction; “but see
here, Mr. Painter, do you come from Izard? Are you the man that saved
the county for the Republicans, by mortgaging his farm and then going on
a house to house canvass?”

“That’s me,” the old man acquiesced, blushing with pleasure; “I didn’t
think, though, that it was known outside----”

“Things go further than you guess. I’m a newspaper man, and I can tell
you that I shall speak of it again in my paper. Well, I guess they’ve
got through with their mail, and the platform’s coming in.”

Thus he brushed aside the old man’s agitated thanks.

“One moment,” said the old man, “who--who’s going to nominate him?”

For the space of an eyeblink the kindly Canton man looked embarrassed,
then he said, briskly: “Foraker, Foraker of Ohio--he’s the principal
one. That’s he now, chairman of the committee on resolutions. He’s
there, the tall man with the mustache--”

“Isn’t that elderly man, with the stoop shoulders and the chin beard and
caved-in face, Teller?” It was a man near me, on the seat behind,
who spoke, tapping the Canton man with his fan, to attract attention;
already the pitiful concerns of the old man who was “a little off” (as I
had heard some one on the seat whisper) were sucked out of notice in the
whirlpool of the approaching political storm.

“Yes, that’s Teller,” answered the Canton man, his mouth straightening
and growing thin.

“Is it to be a bolt?”

The Canton man nodded, at which the other whistled and communicated the
information to his neighbors, one of whom remarked, “Let ‘em bolt and
be d------!” A subtle excitement seemed to communicate its vibrations to
all the gallery. Perhaps I should except the old partisan; he questioned
the girl in a whisper, and then, seeming to be satisfied, watched the
strange scene that ensued with an expression of patient weariness. The
girl explained parts of the platform to him and he assented; it was good
Republican doctrine, he said, but what did they mean with all this
talk against the money; were they having trouble with the mining States
again? The Canton man stopped to explain--he certainly was good-humored.

During the next twenty minutes, filled as they were with savage emotion,
while the galleries, like the floor, were on their chairs yelling,
cheering, brandishing flags and fists and fans and pampas plumes of red,
white, and blue at the little band of silver men who marched through the
ranks of their former comrades, he stood, he waved his fan in his feeble
old hand, but he did not shout. “You must excuse me,” said he, “I’m
all right on the money question, but I’m saving my voice to shout for
_him!_”

“That’s right,” said the Canton man; but he took occasion to cast a
backward glance which I met, and it said as plainly as a glance can
speak, “I wish I were out of this!”

Meanwhile, with an absent but happy smile, the old Blaine man was
beating time to the vast waves of sound that rose and swelled above
the band, above the cheering, above the cries of anger and scorn, the
tremendous chorus that had stiffened men’s hearts as they marched to
death and rung through streets filled with armies and thrilled the
waiting hearts at home:

               “Three cheers for the red, white, and blue!

               Three cheers for the red, white, and blue!

                   The army and navy forever, three cheers for the

                        red, white, and blue!”

But when the chairman had stilled the tumult and made his grim comment,
“There appear to be enough delegates left to transact business,” the old
partisan cast his eyes down to the floor with a chuckle. “I can’t see
the hole they made, it’s so small. Say, ain’t he a magnificent chairman;
you can hear every word he says!”

“Bully chairman,” said a cheerful “rooter” in the rear, who had enjoyed
the episode more than words can say, and had cheered the passing of
Silver with such choice quotations from popular songs as “Good-bye, my
lover, good-bye,” and “Just tell them that you saw me,” and plainly
felt that he, too, had adorned the moment. “I nearly missed coming this
morning, and I would n’t have missed it for a tenner; they’re going to
nominate now.”

The old man caught his breath; then he smiled. “I’ll help you shout
pretty soon,” said he, while he sat down very carefully.

The “rooter,” a good-looking young fellow with a Reed button and three
or four gaudy badges decking his crash coat, nodded and tapped his
temple furtively, still retaining his expression of radiant good-nature.
The Canton man nodded and frowned.

I felt that the Canton man need not be afraid. Somehow we were all
tacitly taking care that this poor, bewildered soul should not have its
little dream of loyal, unselfish satisfaction dispelled.

“Ah, my countrymen,” I thought, “you do a hundred crazy things, you
crush _les convenances_ under foot, you can be fooled by frantic
visionaries--but how I love you!”

It was Baldwin of Iowa that made the first speech. He was one of the
very few men--I had almost said of the two men--that we in the galleries
had the pleasure of hearing; and we could hear every word.

He began with a glowing tribute to Blaine. At the first sentence, our
old man flung his gray head in the air with the gesture of the war horse
when he catches the first, far-off scream of the trumpet. He leaned
forward, his features twitching, his eyes burning; the fan dropped out
of his limp hand; his fingers, rapping his palm, clenched and loosened
themselves unconsciously in an overpowering agitation. His face was
white as marble, with ominous blue shadows; but every muscle was
astrain; his chest expanded; his shoulders drew back; his mouth was as
strong and firm as a young man. For a second we could see what he had
been at his prime.

Then the orator’s climax came, and the name--the magic name that was its
own campaign cry in itself.

The old partisan leaped to his feet; he waved his hands above his head;
wild, strange, in his white flame of excitement. He shouted; and we
all shouted with him, the McKinley man and the Reed man vying with each
other (I here offer my testimony to the scope and quality of that young
Reed man’s voice), and the air rang about us: “Blaine! Blaine! James G.
Blaine!” He shrieked the name again and again, goading into life the
waning applause. Then in an instant his will snapped under the strain;
his gray beard tilted in the air; his gray head went back on his neck.

The Canton man and I caught him in time to ease the fall. We were helped
to pull him into the aisle. There were four of us by this time, his
granddaughter and the Reed “rooter,” besides the Canton man and myself.

We carried him into the wide passageway that led to the seats. The Reed
young man ran for water, and, finding none, quickly returned with a
glass of lemonade (he was a young fellow ready in shifts), and with it
we bathed the old man’s face.

Presently he came back, by degrees, to the world; he was not conscious,
but we could see that he was not going to die.

“He’ll be all right in no time,” declared the Reed man. “You had better
go back and get your seats, and keep mine!”

I assured both men that I could not return for more than a short time,
having an engagement for luncheon.

“That’s all right,” said the Reed man, turning to the Canton man, “I
ain’t shouting when Foraker comes; you are. You go back and keep my
seat; I’ll come in later on Hobart.”

So the kindly Canton man returned to the convention for which he was
longing, and we remained in our little corner by the window, the young
girl fanning the old man, and the young man on the watch for a boy with
water. He darted after one; and then the girl turned to me.

No one disturbed us. Below, the traffic of a great city roared up to us
and a brass band clanged merrily. The crowd hurried past, drawn by the
tidings that “the light was on,” it choked the outlets and suffocated
the galleries.

“He’s been that way ever since he read, suddenly, that Blaine was dead,”
 she said, lowering her voice to keep it safe from his failing ears; “he
had a kind of a stroke, and ever since he ‘s had the notion that Blaine
was alive and was going to be nominated, and his heart was set on going
here. Mother was afraid; but when--when he cried to go, I could not help
taking him--I did n’t know but maybe it might help him; he was such a
smart man and such a good man; and he has had trouble about mortgaging
the farm; and he worked so hard to get the money back, so mother would
feel right. All through the hot weather he worked, and I guess that’s
how it happened. You don’t think it’s hurt him? The doctor said he might
go. He told T----, a gentleman friend of mine who asked him.”

“Oh, dear, no,” said I; “it has been good for him.”

I asked for her address, which fortunately was near, and I offered
her the cab that was waiting for me. I had some ado to persuade her to
accept it; but when I pointed to her grandfather’s pale face she did
accept it, thanking me in a simple but touching way, and, of course,
begging me to visit her at Izard, Ohio.

All this while we had been sedulously fanning the old man, who would
occasionally open his eyes for a second, but gave no other sign of
returning consciousness.

The young Reed man came back with the water. He was bathing the old
man’s forehead in a very skilful and careful way, using my handkerchief,
when an uproar of cheering shook the very floor under us and the rafters
overhead.

“Who is it?” the old man inquired, feebly.

“Foraker! Foraker!” bellowed the crowd.

“He’s nominated him!” muttered the old man; but this time he did not
attempt to rise. With a smile of great content he leaned against his
granddaughter’s strong young frame and listened, while the cheers
swelled into a deafening din, an immeasurable tumult of sound, out
of which a few strong voices shaped the chorus of the Battle Cry of
Freedom, to be caught up by fifteen thousand throats and pealed through
the walls far down the city streets to the vast crowd without.

The young Reed “boomer,” carried away by the moment, flung his free
hand above his head and yelled defiantly: “Three cheers for the man from
Maine!” Instantly he caught at his wits, his color turned, and he lifted
an abashed face to the young girl.

“But, really, you know, that ain’t giving nothing away,” he apologized,
plucking up heart. “May I do it again?”

The old partisan’s eye lighted. “Now they’re shouting! That’s like old
times! Yes, do it again, boy! Blaine! Blaine! James G. Blaine!”

He let us lead him to the carriage, the rapturous smile still on his
lips. The “rooter” and I wormed our way through the crowd back to the
seats which the kind Canton man had kept for us.

We were quite like old acquaintances now; and he turned to me at once,
“Was there ever a politician or a statesman, since Henry Clay, loved so
well as James G. Blaine?”





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